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As much as there are innovative and mesmerising electronic artists out there, it is getting more and more difficult to stand out in what is a saturated market. Plenty of subfields have been plumbed to death, like digitally infused post-rock and electronic pop, so there’s a demand for something truly creative to mark out some originality.
Texas’s Beatnik Neon have made such an attempt on the eight-track album, Yoreself. The basis of their design is to fuse traditional instrumentation with modern processes while layering melodies and beats underneath, and the challenge is to not make it a jumbled mess or fall into the common trap of sounding contrived and cheesy.
The duo of Nolan Farmer and Yann McBreton enlisted several collaborators to achieve their unique crossovers: Paul Simmons, Christopher Greaney from Bel Ronin, and Christine Nicole all connected and delivered through songwriting, instrumentation, or production. On their own, Beatnik Neon are known for their huge drum and bass sounds with imposing soundscapes and memorable live performances, but on this release, you’ll find not only classical and jazz flairs, but also rock, R&B, pop and more.
Yoreself ranges from subtle beats to more mysterious and menacing elements supported by live instrumentation via piano, saxophone, cello, guitar, and bass. The melting pot ventures from Gorillaz territory to a more subdued and mellow form of System of a Down at points, so it’s hard to pin down their signature sound.
The release begins with the powerfully-arranged ‘Colors’. The magnetism of the strings immediately grabs the listener, and the clever bass lines maintain the hook. The track proves a natural lead-in for the darker, spacier, and more psychedelic, ‘The Cure’.
‘Rag and Bone’ was released late last year as the album’s lead single, and it features the mesmerising vocal talents of Christine Nicole. Her inclusion truly brings Beatnik Neon’s music to new heights, and although the duo has a history of including guest vocalists on their releases, the chemistry of this collaboration is their best yet.
Embellishing the classical elements are tracks like ‘Spiders’ and the title track, which succeed in melding beat with string without sounding pompous or overblown. There’s an implied deep knowledge of both pop and classical material here by Beatnik Neon, as the arrangement is tastefully curated and well executed. Again, Nicole’s haunting vocals on the latter track make for one of the standout performances on the whole album.
The artistic progression on Yoreself is a major step forward for Beatnik Neon, and it’s a firm move away from the more rock-oriented Atramentous. This is a group whose sound is finding its maturity and completion; the ambitious decisions are deliberate and well thought out, and the flow and dynamics of each track are stellar.