Thom Sonny Green - 'High Anxiety' Album Review
An hour-long, largely ambient electronic album by the drummer from Alt-J. It’s decent!
Let’s get straight to the point. This is a 66-minute long, almost entirely instrumental, largely ambient electronic solo album by the drummer from Alt-J. If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with us. If you’re not, your loss.
On paper it may not sound that enthralling, but it is a release that deserves attention.
These days Alt-J are an arena-sized anomaly. Their escalation to festival headliners after just two albums (2012’s ‘An Awesome Wave’, 2014’s ‘This Is All Yours’) hasn’t been built off the back of explosive interviews, zeitgeisty fashion sense or being entertaining on social media. It’s really been about their sound and the songs, and Green’s role in that is an understated one.
His drumming style – the tuning of the drums, the lack of any cymbals – is a huge point of distinction. You could argue he’s what makes Alt-J different.
He’s also vivaciously into new, left-field music, having written about breaking artists like Arca and Clams Casino for NME in the past.
So, while Alt-J take a rest – bandmate Gus Unger-Hamilton has invested in the restaurant trade – Green’s painted this series of soundscapes. At 21 tracks, ‘High Anxiety’ isn’t for the faint-hearted and at times can feel overly meandering. But it is rewarding, especially as each song’s delivered with its own visual via a collaboration with filmmaker Nichola Farnan.
Most tracks have a single name – ‘Cologne’, ‘Houston’, ‘Oakland’ – perhaps in honour of the locations they were created in. Green spent much of the past two years of touring life working on his laptop as Alt-J travelled the world. Together they merge to take the listener on a snaking journey through ambient electronica (opener ‘Vienna’), contorted trap beats (‘Ping’) and spectacular, cinematic string arrangements (‘Oslo’). Any vocals appear fleetingly as samples, like on ‘Blew’ and ‘Beach’. Those looking for the twisted, melodic hooks and abstract lyrics of Alt-J won’t find them here.
The overall effect is less like an album and more like a digitally created scrapbook – a dreamy, transportive audio roadtrip through fuzzy urban noise and peaceful rural serenity. A lengthy voyage for sure, but one worth embarking on.
Record label: Infectious Music Ltd
Release date: 19 Aug, 2016