Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Neat Beats - Cosmic Surgery
Coming out on Hop Skip Jump Records (who put out the great Moonbeams record earlier this year) is the project of Alvin Fenner, suitably called Neat Beats. Cosmic Surgery is his first LP under the Neat Beats moniker, yet the maturity displayed here gives off the impression that Fenner has been doing this for a long time.
Cosmic Surgery is an electronic record, but it does not fall into the traps that often put me off the genre - there is no meandering, there is no identity crisis - and it doesn't actually try to be anything more than it is. Inarticulate visions of grandeur (the new M83 anyone?) would have ruined this record - Fenner keeps it thematically simple but compositionally coherent. At a fundamental level, this is an album of beats and samples. Fenner probably spent a good portion of his time splicing and dicing samples until he felt that the songs had actually become more than the sum of their parts, and I feel he has completely succeeded.
Whether you look at Cosmic Surgery as an electronic record, or as an 'instrumental hip-hop' album, the songs are all remarkably well crafted - there are very few albums of this kind I feel comfortable listening to while I'm doing nothing else, but Cosmic Surgery is one. Songs like 'Video Game Characters' or 'The Machine Destroys Everything' have strong pop elements which work entirely in their favour, but Fenner retains flow across the record by delivering different moods with each song. 'Turning on the Large Hadron Collider' and 'I Love You, Vashti...' are perhaps more solemn in relation to the aforementioned tracks, yet sit alongside them with marked continuity.
What perhaps characterises Cosmic Surgery is best explained in one of its tags - 'downtempo'. This is music to relax to, music to chill to, music to take drugs to. Offering technical descriptions of the music here seems almost pointless - despite there being a high level of musicianship displayed - because this is all about mood, and Fenner has undoubtedly hit the spot. I could talk at length about how this record makes me feel or the best way to listen to it, but nothing really would compare to the words of the artist:
'Cosmic Surgery by Neat Beats is a compilation of emotionally obscured and forgotten sounds warped and rewoven into an experimental downtempo beat album that takes hints from DJ Shadow, The Microphones, Animal Collective, Prefuse 73, and Flying Lotus, to name a few. I'd suggest waiting for a rainy day, smoking a cigarette indoors and throwing this record on...'
Download and/or buy here.
Also check out Hop Skip Jump Records - Alvin runs it with Ryan of Moonbeams.