Anenon Petrol

[Friends of Friends; 2016]

Styles: MOCA, mocha, electronic arts, jambient jazz
Others: Jon-Kyle, M. Geddes Gengras, Non Projects

You hear musicians say stuff like “I’m doing it for the art” so often that you take it as the kind of self-preservation-motivated half-lie your local barista tells her/himself every morning so s/he can get out of bed and go pour lattes for mouth-breathers, only to play a show later that night for an audience of three loyal friends, then fall asleep and wake up and do it all over again the next day without giving up hope and/or losing sanity. Putting all that probably sound judgment (but judgment, nonetheless) aside, Anenon a.k.a. Brian Allen Simon is really doing it for the art. Literally. Like, he’s played music live at MOCA Grand Avenue, with museum visitors walking in and out of the performance space (a gallery), presumably leaving him at intervals all alone, blowing notes for an audience of paintings. Doing it for the art. About that life. For real.

It might be unfair to use that scene as a means of approaching Anenon’s latest album, Petrol, since the two projects have little to do with one another. And, in fact, Petrol is more directly the follow-up to the Camembert EP, which dropped several months before the aforementioned performance took place. But then again, maybe not. There is a kind of synesthesia at play in Petrol, an attempt to convey the smell and texture of the Los Angeles landscape via sound, an endeavor that inevitably turns out to be as self-reflexive as it is empathetic, as introspective as it is reflective — you know, like all art, but even more so, because there are levels to this shit.

Petrol succeeds most toward that end when Simon’s saxophone and Jon-Kyle Mohr’s drums feel like integral parts of the composition (whether or not they are), like on the opener “Body,” the steady-beat-driven “Machines,” and the closing title track. On several of the songs on which Simon’s sax is audible, it sounds more like an afterthought, a transitory, improvised escape from an electronic composition, but a flight that mainly just eases our transition to the next piece. Like getting caught up in your own reflection while staring out the window of a plane and falling asleep, trying to refocus on the clouds beyond.

Which is not to say that Petrol will necessarily put you to sleep. Simon is, above all, a talented improviser with a grasp on dynamics that borders on masterful, so his subtle turns of phrase and shifts in volume manage to achieve immersive depth even when the interplay of sax, strings, electronics, and drums otherwise lacks color. Why then a middle-of-the-road 3/5 review? Probably one or two half-circles went to go look at something in the next room.

Links: Anenon - Friends of Friends

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