Technology is frequently seen as isolating, removing us from human contact, creating a future of anonymous gray boxes with glowing windows, with no one speaking or making eye contact. This is a dismissive, reductionist view, which overlooks the fact that technology can give us voice, the technical capabilities to realize our thoughts and feelings, and a platform to share them.
Acute, from German producer David Kleinekottmann, who makes music under the moniker Present Paradox, is a short "mini-album", as opposed to an EP, as it is centered around one particular theme, the loss of Kleinekottmann's father. Right off the bat, this elicits comparisons to Panda Bear's finest recorded moment, Young Prayer, with its wordless, layered vocal harmonies expressing the many, often contradictory, emotions of losing a parent, or any loved one.
There are sonic similarities, to back up this thesis, as Present Paradox's vocals are also dreamily reverbed and faraway, although more intelligible than Noah Lennox's. There's also more of a beat, and more structured, than Young Prayer. This plays into Acute's other main antecedents: the solo work of Thom Yorke, Eraser and Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. Like both of those records, Present Paradox is extending what is possible within the often tired singer/songwriter format.
Things start off with a swooning, swelling organ tone, which can be heard repetitively throughout Acute, giving the air of a lamentation, as a very subtle, pulsing beat provides a pulse, a gridwork for the cloud. The amorphousness evaporates on "Let Me Sleep", with chiming, clockwork keys and, again, a simple but entirely effective beat. Kleinekottmann knows when to keep it simple, focusing on what works, for maximum efficacy. This makes for spacious arrangements and a dreamy cast, that still manages to hold momentum.
It's back to the sacred organs on "June Freeze Frame", one of the album's highlights, drifting like a cloud at sunset, all peach and tangerine. There are no words, here, to congeal "June Freeze Frame" into a definitive meaning, and is one of the album's most effective moments, because of it. The album's other highlight, "Midnight Fog", is simply great. An almost '80s simplistic drum machine beat underscores voice and synth pads. "Midnight Fog" has a glowing, beating emerald pulse, but faraway, and glimpsed through pea-soup. This dichotomy is the nucleus of Acute; distant, yet intimate. Personal, yet cryptic. Not all of us are great at giving voice to our internal processes, and emotions are notoriously difficult to enunciate, rarely being one thing at a time.
As someone who has lost their father, at a young age, I can tell you, it's not easy to articulate the void that person's departure leaves. When someone says, "What do you miss about your Dad?", I'm at a loss. Like, I don't know, the 9,306 days I've had to live, without him in my life. Not getting to share a cup of coffee and a cigarette, as an adult? And then, the relief, simultaneously, that I haven't had to defend my eccentricity to a patriarch of the former generation?
It's a confusing tapestry, full of all manner of shades, hues, and nuances, and Present Paradox touches upon them all, impressively, in the span of 6 songs.
Lastly, one final praise for technology, as these full arrangements would simply not have been possible, without ready access to recording technology (Kleinekottmann recorded Acute, as well as the rest of his material, at home). These songs may have come to light, but most likely with some outside contributions. It might be an approximation, a re-creation, of this introversion, this mourning, these personal ruminations, but wouldn't be the interior glimpse to a night time world of someone dealing with life, raw and unabated. In this way, electronic music, of the likes practiced by Present Paradox, Thom Yorke, and countless others, IS ABSOLUTELY revolutionizing the sole singer/songwriter, as far as what kinds of sounds and experiences are possible. We begin to spy a future where one human being could move a whole dancefloor, an entire stadium, or just the inside of someone's skull, without being pigeonholed into acoustic folk or piano pop confessionals.
So here's to new forms. Here's to reaching out, and expressing one's self. Maybe you'll find some kindred spirits. Maybe you'll feel just a little bit less lonesome, in the process. I, for one, enjoyed these weightless auras immensely, from my Christmas light citadel in the burgeoning gloom, as if Kleinekottmann were plucking directly onto my ventricles.
An honest and open work, delivered with excellent musicianship and great production. Check it out, in the sunset.
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