The art of seduction is not easy to teach. You can intuitively understand or gain understanding through initiation, but there’s a huge swathe of people that, no matter how hard they try, cannot achieve or receive it. Sex remains a mystery. Capturing that mystery in music is valuable currency, indeed; it’s spent recklessly in libidinal rock ‘n’ roll but savored, withheld, and controlled in soul and R&B.
In recent times, we’ve enjoyed the rise of ‘alt R&B’—prefixed as such due to an aesthetic shift achieved when the rhythms and atmospheres of soul and R&B became, like many other genres, inhabited by lone bedroom laptop producers instead of dominated by a team in a studio. Some of it—such as The Weeknd‘s “What You Need” or Jeremih‘s “Fuck U All The Time”—has arrived dripping in sultry, seductive sex. Other artists—How To Dress Well, for example—skip the mystery; it’s less an impression of R&B and more the flavor of somewhat syncopated indie.
Brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged came up as part of a team in a studio, working as session musicians with the likes of Pharrell, 50 Cent, and Raphael Saadiq. As inc., Andrew sings and plays guitar; Daniel does almost everything else, including bass, programming, and keys. As you’d expect, the playing and arrangements are accomplished, but in the setting of R&B that’s the norm. The ‘altness’ of it—read, the programming—provides some of no world‘s most arresting sonic surprises: a crystalline digital skitter, akin to a more melodic use of Oval‘s processed CD skipping techniques, graces more than a few tracks. It’s a recurring fiber-optic thread providing an alien loveliness.
But inc.’s true achievement is in their ability to weave this modernity with the ancient mystery of seduction. If tracks like “5 days” and “the place” are intimate caresses whetting the appetite, “lifetime” and “angel” surrender to new jack soul and our initiation is complete. no world isn’t a perfect album (few are). To these ears, the admittedly light touch of the all-too-familiar guitar actually detracts from the striking digital oddness; the swooning songwriting occasionally falls into a frankly unbecoming drama. But tapping into the ineffable is irresistible, and as one seduced, we ignore the faults and come back for more.~
inc.’s no world is out now on 4AD. You can listen to an album stream below.