Within the frame on the cover of Autre Ne Veut’s new album is a blank space. At one stage before the album’s release (maybe there were permissions issues), this frame housed a copy of The Scream, that well-worn classic by Edvard Munch. Anxiety, the name of the album, is also the title of another, equally unnerving Munch painting. It makes you wonder what the connection is between Arthur Ashin and an artist born 150 years ago.
The obvious answer is that they turn their pain into art, all the more conclusive when you delve into the psychological warfare Ashin indulges in throughout the course of Anxiety.
Like the last How To Dress Well album, it’s a move from a hazy bedroom affair to a fuller, more upfront sound, though still shrouded in complete weirdness and, despite sounding less like a solo venture, it results in a lonely, cathartic album.
Autre Ne Veut’s bizarre alternative universe of R&B is a compelling place to visit, though it’s an acquired taste. The first two songs (Play By Play, Counting) are the best, with Ashin’s impressive vocals a passionate driving force that builds to fantastic choruses. The pleas to “never leave” and “please stay” suggest a lover is planning an exit strategy, though Counting is actually a farewell to his dying grandmother. Later, on Ego Free, Sex Free, Ashin subverts the cliche of R&B being hedonistic and overly sexual. It’s this sly genre-bending and inability to default to the obvious that makes an album like Anxiety so compelling.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Play By Play
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: Anything In Return TORO Y MOI, Total Loss HOW TO DRESS WELL, Instrumentals CLAMS CASINO
In A Word: Self-portrait