A collection of mostly short tracks seemingly composed whilst either under the influence of too much coffee or just pure crystal meth.
How to be a human being by Alice, on the venerable Schematic Label, is a collection of mostly short tracks seemingly composed whilst either under the influence of too much coffee or just pure crystal meth.
The album is a sonic collage which seems to lack a coherent idea or theme. To be honest I feel as if I should give HTBAHB special attention because it’s on Schematic, one of the grandaddies of IDM and electronic music but then I hear something like this and I have to fathom what the intent of the artist was. Now I’m all for experimentation as it’s how we get some of the greatest music of humankind; it doesn’t have to make sense necessarily but it should have some direction and focus. One gets that from the music of Iannis Xenakis or even Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain.”
One does not get that sense of direction or focus from this album. If I’m supposed to sit back and stroke my chin while staring thoughtfully at the ceiling as this plays I’d rather put on Autechre’s Exai (Warp, 2013) which is equally incomprehensible yety composed with a direction in mind. There’s only so much sonic wankery one can take in a world where so much music is produced let alone that which requires understanding the concept behind it before listening.
“Intro” is all glitchy orchestral loops, tribal rhythms, noises and weird melodies as if Alice wants to show you all the things in only two minutes forty seconds. “Mustache” winds an organ drone around your cortex with an occasional drum beat to remind you this is in 4/4 and you might be getting a migraine; the tempo slows towards the end as if even the song is tired of all that’s going on simultaneously. “Cecilia” lopes along with a discernible rhythm that breaks up like Oval dropping his laptop once too often. “Heaven Never Better” gives you stuttering, diva vocals and staccato drums before dropping out into a well of reverb, perhaps none too early at that.
Oddly enough “8,” the longest piece on the album, is the one that works best with a steady beat under the usual repetitive loops of voices and sounds Alice uses elsewhere on the album however the effect is more somnambulant than the other tracks—at one point it even forms a melodic part reminiscent of Squarepusher or Venetian Snares!
Which shows that if your album is so experimental that Venetian Snares is accessible and linear by comparison you really have achieved something. Which is a dubious achievement indeed.
How to be a human being is available on Schematic Music Company.