The story behind Anenon's Acquiescence EP is one of timing. After building a solid reputation at the helm of the Non Projects imprint over the past two years, Anenon was invited to the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid late last year, where, in one week, he recorded the beds of saxophone and grand piano that would become Acquiescence. From there, Anenon (a.k.a. Brian Simon) returned to Los Angeles, jet-lagged and immediately thrown into the midst of a break-up, and with one more week's time, Simon had completed his EP. But beyond the chain of events which led him to this creative spurt, another form of timing seems to have come to a head—that of the artist firmly solidifying a style all his own. Absorbing the influences of LA's beat scene while showcasing a mind for jazz and a keen knack for patient production, Simon's second EP for his own imprint is the label's most substantial and defining record to date.
Across the EP's five tracks, Simon creates a sonic world based on layers of sustained piano chords and breathy saxophone. Although large chunks of this real-world instrumentation stay largely untouched, pieces of them become processed fragments, which then spread across the stereo spectrum in blankets of blissful drones. It is these masses of heavenly textures that characterise Acquiescence as they weave in and out of each track, sometimes by building with a steady stream, as they do on the opening "Clairvoyance," or by ducking behind every kick and snare, as found on the title track. The EP's overall sound benefits greatly from this upfront use of real instrumentation, giving the songs a familiar detail, and its flowing textures an extra depth. There is nothing "otherworldly" about the soundscapes presented here; the sonic palette is very much of our physical world, but slices of it have been mangled, its data rearranged to create something entirely new but somehow still understandable to our ears.
Of the five songs offered on this record, two ("Clairvoyance" and "Equilibrium") could be considered interludes. Building growing drones around simple, repeating piano melodies, they serve more as palette cleansers than full-blown compositions. It is Acquiescence's other three efforts that hold the record together, all of which are marked by progressions of full, resonating piano, the sort one would find in the contemplative moments of a somber Keith Jarret solo or within the icy, lonely phrases of Ryuchi Sakamoto, particularly on his collaborations with the minimalist sound artist Alva Noto. The spacious piano movements leave room for Simon's flawless production aesthetic to form, adding basic rhythms and understated drum tones to the introspective melodies and clouds of bliss. The resulting songs are emotional, but not necessarily specific in their emotion, at times appearing tender and inviting, and at other moments sad and overwhelming—it all depends on how the listener approaches them. The title track, "Acquiescence," even has a bit of uneasy tension brimming at its edges, thanks to a flurry of saxophone runs, which have been looped and layered to yield a striking presence that is so often vacant from contemporary electronic music.
The EP's final effort, "Rites," is also its most poignant endeavor. Beginning gradually with a slightly off-kilter piano melody, the song begins to coalesce as reversed and delayed slices of piano trickle underneath, eventually joined by a rounded bass and a four-on-the-floor beat. As the rhythms take shape, the lopsided melody eventually makes sense, fitting in between the steady kick and gentle claps with an unexpected pattern. With "Rites," Anenon ends his EP with the selection that best proves why the entire record is such a rewarding listen: it is intelligent without being distant, sophisticated without pretension.
Listen to Anenon's Acquiescence EP here.