Arthur Ashin, aka Autre Ne Veut, opened his fantastic 2013 album, Anxiety, with a stunning statement of intent called “Play By Play,” a towering single that took R&B genre staples and used them to build something left field, unique, and epic. If that song and album saw him reconstructing the genre’s sounds into unique shapes, the opening of his latest album sees him taking those same sounds and turning them inside out completely, with the innards spilling all over the floor.

If that sounds like a slightly uncomfortable image, then it’s suitable for “On And On (Reprise),” a glitchy slice of free-form jazz and soul that straddles the line between being startling original and borderline unlistenable. It’s the sound of Ashin pushing his sound as far as he can, and while you can sense his passion in its rawness and uncompromising nature, you can also imagine plenty of listeners not getting to the end of the track’s chaotic five minutes.


The odd thing is that it really isn’t a statement of intent. A palate cleanser maybe, but other than a noise interlude late on the album during “Over Now,” Age Of Transparency sees Autre Ne Veut following the same vein as Anxiety: truly strange music that still somehow resembles chart-topping pop music but viewed through a distortion lens. “Panic Room” comes with a massive chorus and serves as a lovely appetizer for the seismic double bill of “Cold Winds,” with its earth-shaking hook, and the title track, which comes closest to recapturing the sky-scraping joys of “Play By Play.”

At its best, Ashin’s music really does inspire those kinds of superlatives. He often makes it difficult for himself by singing in some kind of glossolalia that deliberately blurs the music around its jagged edges, but that voice carries a rawness and sincerity that compels listeners to stick with him through some of the album’s odder moments. As a producer, he often indulges in strange quirks, such as the accompaniment during the chorus of “Switch Hitter,” which grates ever so slightly, almost toppling an otherwise solid tune.

For every moment that his experiments don’t quite come off, there are several more where they do. “World War Pt. 2” wraps a simple and affecting melody in jarring, escalating pitch-shifted vocals to startling effect, while the title track’s lovely, subtle beat drop a couple of minutes in and the softer, sweeter tones of “”Never Wanted” and “Get Out” prove that even in more conventional moments, Ashin has a studio mastery that makes his music consistently fascinating.

Evidently Age Of Transparency is a flawed album but one whose ambitions and high points convince you to stick with Ashin’s vision. It’s a step away from the mainstream rather than towards it, an effort rooted in an avant-garde approach that enthralls with its instability and unpredictability. On this occasion, the music falls to pieces before it even gets going, but pleasure can be found in the way Autre Ne Veut spends the rest of the album putting it back together again into his very specific brew.

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Autre Ne Veut