Sigmund Freud theorized that trauma was the origin of all art. He considered art to be a subconscious repetition and projection of unresolved trauma. In his 1920 text, "Beyond The Pleasurable Principal," he discussed the re-occurring nightmares of soldiers returning from World War I, and the transference of patients he analyzed who "repeat the repressed material... rather than remember it." (Freud, pg. 20)
This suggests that some things are too much for the mind to bear, and we employ different methods of dealing with them.
If it were not for the blunt force trauma of life, perhaps there would be no art. Perhaps it's the strife that sharpens our knives. Art born from strife raises interesting questions about what purpose art serves in the first place. It's a murky and fascinating grey area. Are we reveling in another's misery? Preparing ourselves? Relating?
I don't mean to suggest that the Green EP by Berlin electronic musician Jessica Nay, who makes music under the name Noah's Tape, is all doom and gloom and ashes and rust. In fact, it sounds quite friendly and danceable. Tight, punchy kick drums and partytime hand claps meet tasty, poppy, catchy synth hooks, as big as Mount Rushmore. But when sings, "And then you grab (grind?) my head and said/I just want to be with you/Well if you wanted to/why did you/pin me to the ground?" It's not entirely clear what's going on, but it sounds somewhere between a fistfight, an abusive relationship, or just putting up with someone's clueless emotional bullshit. It doesn't sound pleasant, whatever it is.
Jessica Nay captures something people don't talk about that much in life, or in art, however. Pain can call the world into startling clarity. When you're heartbroken, shocked, unbelieving, it's almost like an intense acid trip. Your mind is utterly still. You may walk the streets for hours or days. You are in the opposite of a rush; you're trying to kill as much as possible, waiting for the hurt to stop. It's oddly beautiful and moving, but you hope to never experience it firsthand.
Music captures and channels those moments, however. Those tragic, abusive relationships. Those car wrecks. Those drunken nights in jail. They may be moving memories, but you wouldn't wish them on your worst enemy, or want to ever experience them.
Noah's Tape is an example of a new school of electronic producer, containing elements of synth pop, r&b, and straight-up dance music. It's an insanely full sound, with a full sonic spectrum of drums, fuzzy basslines, and tasty squelching leads. It sounds like a full band - and a talented one at that - but most of these sounds are eked out be Nay herself, although she has collaborators on "Renegade" and "Waltz With Me". The solitary nature makes for a more removed and personal feeling than would be possible with a band. Even miserablist bands are taking comfort in one another, even if they'd never admit it.
But Noah's tape is a peak into the heart of one. A soundtrack for dancing in your bedroom, or out with the crowds, when you feel like it. Nay's pop sensibility really makes the most of the electronic tapestry. Dance tracks have a tendency to just grind on for hours and days, designed for people to freak out on MDMA. I'm a devoted techno warrior, but you have to be in a mood for it. Jessica Nay takes the sound shaping and multi-tracking potentials of electronic music, but then breaks it up with insanely catchy hooks, that makes us yearn for a big beat revival. (if it could be done tastefully.)
She's also an insanely good producer - everything is well recorded and hangs well together, and the programming is top notch! The drums never get static - you never get the sense that some preset or loop is just banged on a track and left to run. She's carefully selected each element, and done her homework to get it sounding right. Well done, Jessica Nay; you get an A.
Fans of The Postal Service, Portishead, James Blake, Fever Ray, New Order and purveyors of futuristic pop music, turn here. Short and indispensable.
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