On new album ‘The Mansion‘, Brett Naucke seems to capture the absurd collision of encroaching automation, malicious algorithms and obsessive nostalgia. Zoomed out, the seven tracks are meticulously arranged, sweeping melodic structures. Up close, machine polyrhythms and unnatural textures constantly reshape and recontextualise.
In the four years since ‘Seeds‘, his debut full length, Brett Naucke has produced a slew of cassette releases that have seen his music drift into a vivid, synthetic esotericism. This became most lucid on last year’s Hausu Mountain released ‘Multiple Hallucinations‘, a constantly shifting tapestry that sounds like an attempt to generate aural anthropology.
Returning to Editions Mego sub-label Spectrum Spools for his sophomore vinyl release, The Mansion sees Naucke’s music moving away from the process driven feeling of earlier works. Opener ‘The Vanishing’ starts with twinkling arpeggio’s, otherworldly drones and quotidian bumps and scrapes before abruptly falling away into Natalie Chami’s (TALSounds/Good Willsmith) layered vocals.
The track quickly reveals a conflict between the composed and the aleatory, the organic and the synthetic, that is fought throughout the album. Chami’s voice layers and strives towards a hymnal crescendo, echoing the sci-fi divinity vibe felt so keenly on her 2017 album ‘Love Sick‘. Here though, as the melodic lines twist and overlap each other, concrete buzzes, clangs and bleeps keep struggling into the stereo field.
On fifth track ‘Clocks in the Mansion’, Chami’s voice appears again, this time cut up and placed in a mangled grid with other sonic detritus. Eventually, structure appears as Whitney Johnson’s viola starts to play an achingly beautiful lament and Naucke’s bed of electronics solidifies into something tangible and rhythmic.
Throughout the album, Naucke’s placing of sounds delivers an intricately balanced pay-off between tension and resolution – subtly revealing that ‘The Mansion‘ is far from a record of chance modular synthesis and knob twiddling improvisation.
The balancing act reaches its peak on closing track ‘No Ceiling to the Mansion’. For the first four minutes a sombre piano ballad weaves through a web of concrète synthesis, haunted percussion and ASMR whispers. The opposing elements dance around each other for prominence. Ultimately, neither prevails, a cleansing swell of drones smothering all and bringing the album to a blissful catharsis.
The last few years have seen electronic music become increasingly fixated on a dark ambient aesthetic. One built on stark monotony and reverb drenched ambiguity. Naucke’s seems to stand in contrast to that, built around dynamic composition and polyphonic textures. Constantly in flux between ambient beauty and a cracked electronic reality, ‘The Mansion‘ is new age music for the era of biometrics and online dating.
The Mansion is out now, order a copy from Editions Mego.
A1. The Vanishing
A2. Youth Organ
A4. Born Last Summer
B1. The Clocks In The Mansion
B2. A Mirror In The Mansion
B3. No Ceiling In The Mansion