Album Visual - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q53haR86Ins
Nico's stock is rising. His audacious plan of cultivating 10 videos to go with his 10 tracks on Anti-Matter is bearing fruit, and that is a testament to the way his music has been recieved in the underground community. Not every artist can reach out in this manner, and actually have people reach back.
Beatastic's work has consistently been evocative, has usually managed provoked a reaction. It hasn't always been an easy listen, and there's times when, in the maelstrom of noises he creates, he hits on a stupidly catchy groove only to move on immediately and frustratingly. On This Lazer Life he penned radio fodder in Body Positive, before going left field on a Hawaiian inspired ukelele number Halloween Party. Whilst this was endearing on his earlier music, last years GL1TCH3S went extreme. Dense post-rock, conscious hip hop, dream pop, ambient, it had absolutely everything.
Anti-Matter is a direct rejection of this model. It's an immediately more focussed, structured album, significantly leaner than his previous efforts at only 10 tracks, and housing the kind of sounds that he has been known to gravitate towards as his bread and butter. Incredibly strong percussive elements underpin every track, and these are expanded on through the use of a stressed out bass guitar and multiple high picked riffs which are instantly familiar and serve to cement each track firmly in your head, even after a cursory listen. We've finally pinned Beatastic down and shone a light on the core musical elements that have made his music so fresh and experimental.
The result is quite stunning, and much darker than his back catalogue defines him. Early work was quite positive, and whilst GL1TCH3S had some extremely dark moments (How Fast The Fog Comes In, Addiction, Lctr), Nico allowed the sun to shine brightly when the clouds did dissipate. Anti-Matter is a tense, hemmed in affair, exploring isolation, dissonance and a disquieting sense of slow dread. The tense explosion of The Waiting Game hides the sinister message 'I'm waiting for us to disappear in history', and a quick perusal of the track names reveals Winter Depression, Sleep is Freedom, Pixelated Heart and Abnegation. Not a happy Nico then?
In the interview I've included below, one of Nico's responses informed that he wanted listeners to escape through his music, to get lost within the mood. The direct rejection of his previous work suggests a soul who has spent more than his fair share of time searching for just that; an escape worthy of his time and effort. The brilliant first single, Sleep Is Freedom, is just DIRTY. That low, aggressive bass groove that settles in before the crisp crash of drum takes centre stage gradually grows in to a crescendo, a tsunami of noise that crashes throughout your speakers as the chorus hits. 'I bury my head under the pillows today, cause sleep is the only time I'm free'. If this were GL1TCH3S it'd be accompanied by spaced out electronics and an upper atmospheric joy ride. Instead Nico takes us down in to the dirt and mud with him, switching his voice from haze to anger, 'It keeps coming, keeps coming', an outward explosion of tension. It's a sinister element he's added to his vocal range, a real edge that wasn't previously present. Karma employs it wonderfully, adding a drone quality that enhances the melodic element of the track.
His vocal performance points to the wider changes and evolution that has occurred in his sound. Reminiscient of a Thom Yorke, he now uses his voice as an extra 'instrument' so to speak, and this opens up an expansive set of options on Anti-Matter. His ability to drone and match the tone of the song deepens the sound. On The Ocean, a whistful selective electronic riff lifted straight from the PC explosion of the early 00s, he croons mournfully, allowing his words to drift in and out of the music mimmicking the very subject he is addressing. He's become so adept at this that during the extended interlude of thumping instrumental at the end of Pixelated Heart, his voice morphs with guitar to almost sound like he is performing a duet with himself. It's an immediate point of difference from traditional post-rock who's main weapon is relentless vibration building to crescendo. On Anti-Matter, Beatastic controls the tempo of each track with the dual aids of his voice and his guitar, allowing him to build and crash at will. Nowhere is this clearer than Konishiwa, a desperate grasp at a percieved escape through human interaction, that never fully dissipates as Nico croons 'Let's just blur in to each other..' as the music dies.
If Anti-Matter is an escapist record, the destination wouldn't find it's way on to too many Contiki tours. It's too inattentive to label this a break up record. Whilst there are multiple mentions of human longing, depression brought about by solitude and even desperation, the feeling is one of ambiguity, not of targeted requests. For example, The Waiting Game, 'I'm waiting for us to disappear in history' has a decidedly Capulet trait about it, and this is backed up on Konishwa, with the doleful 'let's just blur in to each other' hiding a morbid message of a soul seeking a partner in the slow march towards the other side. There's no real central figure, which is in contrast to Your Mistake and Karma, two tracks that directly address frustration and anger towards another. Then Sleep Is Freedom paints the picture of a cautious, self-conscious soul dissecting the possiblity of losing their soulmate.
All of this negativity is a fresh direction for Beatastic, and serves to set Anti-Matter nicely apart in his catalogue. The refusal to remain in one place, to be labelled, is endearing if not expertly conducted. But his fusing of heavy, industrial strength instrumental rock with a nervous, wide-eyed dive in to his psyche and the worries and anxieties that assault it is performed with a self-confidence that belies the message. Fortunately, this duality means that the music is, once again, outstanding. There's no longer something for everything in Beatastic's repertoire, but for those that this appeals to there is a huge array of texture and technique that has flourished when given the attention that it always deserved.
Best Tracks: Winter Depression, Sleep is Freedom, Konishwa
Nico is a lovely bloke and someone I've been in close contact with for quite a while now. He was gracious enough to answer some of my ham-fisted questions, his responses give a nice insight in to not only Anti-Matter but his unique way of creating music.
BC: Anti-Matter immediately feels more mellow than GL1TCH3S, was this a reaction to your current circumstances or were you more conscious of creating a more melodic piece of music?
Nico: I hadn't noticed tbh, I actually thought the lyrical content was angrier
Nico: Well, I couldn't see any rappers taking part in this and frankly I was busy with coordinating the film project so I couldn't spend any time looking for female guests this time.
Nico:I'm very opened to experimentation but each album is a reaction against the previous one. The reviews all said the same thing: it's too varied. I dissagree. It's varied cause that's what I wanted. So this time it's more focused as a reaction against the last one. I had about 45 songs to choose from so I tried to pick the one that fit togther the most.
Nico: I don't have much time to record and write, so when I do I have to work quickly. So I'll sit down and write as I record, using the recording gear as an instrument.
Nico: I once read a Billy Corgan interview where he said he sat down and noticed there's about 15 recognisable traits in his songwriting, so after Mellon Collie he made sure that each new song stayed away from that. I think as an artist it's good to be aware of that, so you don't repeat yourself too much, but you must also stick to what makes you sounds like yourself. So I noticed that my second verses were always similar to the first. So this time I changed that.
Nico: I think it's works of it's own accord. I tend to get a basic drum pattern to work with and then put a bass line down. So this album is probably not very chord based, I tried to do a couple of songs acoustic and not many lend themselves to that. I guess it's just about letting the song find itself
Nico: I think basic drums to find some movement and then a bassline. I like elastic basslines, like Joy Division or The Cure. If I was to write with an coustic guitar the songs would have been very different