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Age of Transparency
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  • Arthur Ashin had something of a critical breakout with the release of 2013's Anxiety, his second LP under the Autre Ne Veut banner. The album saw a crystallization of the New Yorker's eccentric arthouse R&B sound, which had first been introduced in a somewhat cruder, more D.I.Y. form on his self-titled debut a few years earlier. On Age of Transparency, his third album and first for Sony-affiliated Downtown Records, he delivers another set of bold and nervy tracks that are as hyper-controlled as they are chaotic. Billed as the second volume in a trilogy concerned with trying to make personal connections in an impersonal era, Age of Transparency begins with Ashin's soulful voice immediately disintegrating into a trill of tape manipulation, setting the tone for a complicated but inspired album that is anything but straightforward. For the initial sessions, Ashin hired a jazz combo to create the bones of the album, which he then took home to deconstruct, rebuild, and embellish with various synth treatments and glitchy electronic elements. Throughout it all, his expressive voice dips dramatically in and out of a tender R&B falsetto, sometimes going off the rails into ragged hinterlands or hushed, breathy admissions. Standouts like the lush, atmospheric title cut and the alt-gospel rave-up "Get Out" demonstrate Ashin's growth as a producer and artist as he strives to push his own limits and challenge his listeners. His use of rich choral elements, both live and sampled, serves to deepen the human connection even as he pushes away from its bristling digital soundscapes and erratic cut-and-paste techniques. Even his most overt stab at pop, the '80s-inspired "Panic Room," plays with convention, though it's as close as Autre Ne Veut will come to a proper radio single. As an artistic statement about warmth vs. transparency, Ashin has hit his mark with an album that is as beautiful as it is uncomfortable. ~ Timothy Monger
Professional Reviews
Spin - "['Get Out'] features a full-on gospel choir, with drums that want it both ways: the steely clap of Jay Z's THE BLUEPRINT, and the live, bish-bash climax of a marching band ''The Star-Spangled Banner.'"
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