19 Mar 2016

AJ Cornell & Tim Darcy / Too Significant To Ignore (album review)

NNA089Ought are a Montreal post-punk outfit, renowned for their awkward melodies, quirky yet catchy post-punk pop songs, and above all, the tetchy vocal delivery and off kilter lyrical content of frontman Tim Darcy. Through Darcy's cuttingly sarcastic, post-modern and downright funny lyrics, Ought's first two records More Than Any Other Day (2014 - our #10 album of that year) and Sun Coming Down (2015 - our #2 album of last year) are notable for being probably the two best post-punk records of recent years. So if like me, you were yearning for more of Darcy's angular reinterpretations of modern day life, this record - going by the name of Too Significant To Ignore - provides them in the eeriest possible way - atop a cloak of dark ambient soundscapes created by Montreal avant-garde composer AJ Cornell.

This record is - in a word - liminal. It's entire 40-odd minute duration lulls you into a strange purgatory state, not quite with it in the real world, but certainly not dead. Darcy's spoken word, which graces 8 out of 10 tracks, paints a surreal picture throughout. His choice of words are so vivid, so out there that even at a warped snails pace, they're mesmerising creating pictures in your head with every syllable. To me, it's as if Darcy and Cornell have isolated the feeling that the Black Lodge scenes in Twin Peaks evoke, and sent them oozing into your ears as the listener. He reiterates fragmented sentences, often twice, making the record have the same effect as that scene in Twin Peaks with the Giant.

Too Significant To Ignore is an incredibly dark record lyrically - it's hard to pull out an objective meaning from Darcy's poetic lexical quagmire, but to me it screams darkness and depression. "Have you ever felt the rapture? Have you ever felt the rapture? Not to be confused with drinking too much coffee," Darcy enquires (also extending the Lynchian allusions - damn fine coffee - oui?) nonchalantly references armageddon in the title track - pretty much setting the tone for the rest of the listening experience.

More explicitly dark, more explicitly alluding to depression and mental pain the first line of Today, The Body (No More Bacteria) Darcy utters "today the body is doing very well, and the mind not". "I need to feel unregulated," he trembles on the opener, and Cosmetic Sadness sees him iterate "I am my own eventual paradise." The lyrics to this record form such a dark mental picture, the darkness that's implied on Ought's Beautiful Blue Sky is actualised.

It's worth mentioning the eerie soundscapes that make this sound unlike anything else you'll lay ears to; created by AJ Cornell, for the most part they're white noise electronica that succeed in pushing you to the edge. Woozing dark energy, they seldom follow the narrative that the pop songs Darcy writes so perfectly in Ought, instead just bleeding and bleeding as a dark sonic undercurrent to Darcy's spoken vocals, the match made in heaven for people who like their music making them feel on edge. Throughout the most part they just sonically place this record in a very dark place, but pulsating closer Phosphene is an elegant ending that almost brushes on euphoria with its searching wavering electronic sighs, bringing the album to a closer almost too pleasant to justice the unnerving dystopia of the rest of the record.

This album is one that won't be appropriate listening every hour of the day, but stick it on in the twilight hours, and not many records will move you to an untrodden avenue of the psyche quite like this. It's a strangely transportative album that mixes the creepy and dark with the quirky and surreal to make for a very David Lynch album. Do yourself a favour and listen to it loud, through good headphones, between the hours of 1 and 4 AM, because then it's just really an incredible album.

9.4/10

stream the whole record here
buy it here

(written by calum cashin)