We Are Impressed

One of my favourite albums of 2007 was One Week In Sand by A Ninja Slob Drew Me. This is no small praise, as 2007 was one of my favourite years for music – with the release of Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero, and Fear of a Blank Planet by Porcupine Tree, amongst a slew of other things. I find it deeply impressive that an album which was recorded on a laptop, in a university bedroom with nothing resembling a professional recording set up stands out against a number of releases from big name musicians. Although, to the album’s credit, you can’t tell that it was put together with such a makeshift set up – it sounds professional.

Since the release of One Week I’ve been waiting with heavy anticipation for a follow up. I’ve been lucky enough to be drip fed bits of material during that waiting period, as Daniel Brown – the boorish assassin himself – happens to be one of my best friends. I’ve been privileged with unfinished recordings, demos, and discussion of ideas: a process which has had me very excited for the end product.

And now that final product is drawing incredibly near, with tangible results. Today a six track EP called We Are was launched on the artist’s website, which showcases a large chunk of the forthcoming album. After giving the EP a listen, followed by 5 more, my sense of impatience for the full album has grown immensely. I want it now.

In brief, it’s incredibly good. And it represents a massive artistic step forward from One Week. It’s still very much a Ninja Slob album – you can immediately identify any of the songs as having Dan’s trademark all over it – but at the same time it’s quite different from previous endeavours. One of the primary differences I noticed immediately upon listening is that there’s less experimentation within the music, which I actually think is a very good thing in this case, because the album sounds a great deal more focussed as a result. With this EP Brown has produced his most cohesive work to date. It’s also his most mature – it’s hard to explain exactly why, but the playing style, and the way the music is composed comes across as being a lot more self-assured than before. We Are is the work of an artist who has found hs voice, and is comfortable using it.

Song by song, the EP takes you on a sonic journey. It’s all wonderfully mixed together, and it’s quite easy to become lost in it. Each song is distinctive, with it’s own sound and message, and yet in spite of that I found myself wondering when exactly it was that the last track ended and the current one began on more than one occasion. It’s perhaps best to view it not as a collection of songs, but rather as one piece of music which has distinct movements.

The EP opens with it’s title track, which starts off sounding very relaxing and beautiful, and then segues into a more aggressive, industrial sound before descending into silence, followed by sampled speech atop interesting ambient noise.

Then track two begins, and it’s back to the warm sound of the 8 sting bass, being played in the unique 2-hand tapping style that’s become the Ninja Slob trademark. This track has a real sense of warmth to it – you know that feeling you get when you listen to things on vinyl? This track evokes a similar feeling. Despite that warmth, there’s a feeling of something dark lurking somewhere beneath – militaristic sounding drum blasts struggle beneath the bass, as if trying to break out and make themselves heard – but ultimately the bass wins out.

At least until Inside starts, and the drums begin to pick up volume and prominence. Whereas in the previous track, the bass was leading, the tables now turn, and the drums and other electronic beats really come to the forefront of the piece. Despite the highly driven pace, the track nicely ebbs and flows through peaks and troughs, building up tension with aplomb and then releasing it with a great cathartic effect.

We then reach what’s probably my favourite track on the album: The Infinite. It starts slowly, with a soft start to the music layered under glitchy static sounds. But the music soon fights it’s way through and increases in both volume and tension. It’s a track that just builds and builds itself up – and it gets everything just right. The direction of the music frequently shifts, always at just the right moment; nothing repeats itself for too long, and you’re never left feeling like there needed to be a bit more.

No Worry takes a very different start to the rest of the album. It’s a real stand out track. It’s pace is more subdued and methodical, giving the listener time to rest. It’s one of the simpler tracks in terms of instrumentation, which it makes use of to great effect. Of all the tracks on the album, I find No Worry to be the most uplifting – a very positive vibe permeates throughout the piece.

The EP reaches it’s end point with the aptly titled End Point. It begins with very dark, atmospheric ambience, which breaks into a somber sounding piece. Slowly other bits of instrumentation join in with the melancholic bass – but as with many of the other tracks, it’s the bass that dominates. The tone of the track conveys the sadness often present when many things come to an end, but towards the end it picks up in tone, leaving on a more positive note. At around the 4 minute mark the music proper ends, and gives way to more dark electronic ambience – leaving the listener with the suggestion that all is not finished, despite what the song’s title may imply. It very deftly alludes to the coming album, which will features all the tracks on the EP, plus several more. I expect I speak for many listeners when I say that I was left eagerly anticipating more.

Besides the music, it’s also worth drawing attention to the wonderful artwork provided by Jimmy Dead. It has an effective simplicity which accentuates the music it’s accompanying, it’s also quite pretty.

All in all, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. In my opinion it’s the best release of 2011 thus far, and I’m not saying that out of any form of bias. Since you can listen to it for free, I emphatically recommend that you give it a whirl at least once, it’s a wonderful piece of music that I think a lot of people can enjoy. It’s accessible enough that anyone can sit down and give it a go, but at the same time, there’s a lot of subtle complexity contained within that will give listeners something to come back to time and time again.

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