Visionist I’m Fine Part II

[Lit City Trax; 2014]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: grime, ambient, “post-“
Others: Logos, Jam City, Fatima Al-Qadiri, Nguzunguzu

I’m Fine Part II opens in much the same manner as its prequel, with a delicate melody repeating around a dominating bass frequency, accompanied by pitched vocal stabs that seem to hover in midair, each of the parts entirely detached from one another but inhabiting the same cavernous reverb chamber. Actually, barring minor compositional differences, not much has changed between the two releases; Visionist, née Louis Carnell, seems perfectly content with reusing the same sonic palette, even repeating the conceit of the last EP with the track titles indicating a conceptual basis in the five stages of grief.

The sonic language that Carnell has carved out on these two releases — an ethereal, crystalline vaporization of the stylistic markers of grime — appears to be inextricably tied to the expression of loss and despondency of the highest order. The manner in which he has made these genre signifiers conform to his particular artistic vision, put in the service of conveying the extremes of emotion, is reminiscent of works similar in approach, if not style, by other notable artists of the electronic music scene, from Burial’s melancholy memorializing of the hardcore continuum to Daniel Lopatin’s reconfiguring of everything from TV commercials to MIDI presets into futurist masterpieces. One might go so far as to connect the dots into a sort of auteur theory of electronic music: those within the scene who seem most critically successful are those who can most efficiently transfigure what might otherwise be a quite typical release of the genre in which they work into a highly personalized or even transcendent work, defying the quite often serious pressure to conform to certain genre conventions or create “functional” dance music in the way that great directors have defied widely-held industry beliefs about how successful films are made to create art rather than product.

There seems to be a predilection among artists of this caliber to incorporate “ambient” or beatless compositions into their works; the simplest explanation is that it’s a quick and easy method of referring to certain genres without outright imitating them. Remove the percussive elements from grime, garage, etc, and what you’re left with is a peculiarly empty copy of the original, a bit like a memory; ‘ardkore nostalgia made easy. However, what the I’m Fine releases achieve go beyond empty retromania, instead exploring the very process by which memories create a language for grief and pain, emulating that process in parallel to it by using dated genre signifiers to create a musical expression for those choice emotions — in other words, creating something new with something old.

Links: Visionist - Lit City Trax

Most Read