erasing clouds

Namelessnumberheadman, Your Voice Repeating

reviewed by dave heaton

The Kansas City trio Namelessnumberheadman are trying their hardest to give music a new language to speak by taking familiar styles and melding them together into a new one that you haven't heard before. Like many of today's best rock-ish bands (Yo La Tengo, Flaming Lips, Radiohead), they're pushing music forward into new, more complicated places, with a sound that's textured, atmospheric and inclusive of disparate types of music. While their first album, 2002's when We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been, was to my ears one of the most impressive debut albums to come along in a while, with their second album Your Voice Repeating they take an enormous step forward into the future.

Namelessnumberheadman's sound is a sci-fi amalgam of intimate acoustic folk songs, melodic pop, rock energy, and the rhythms and textures of modern electronic music. What's so exciting about their new album is how skillfully these styles are made into one.. with each song they record they sound even less like a hybrid of styles. On Your Voice Repeating they display a confident, dynamic musical personality that's 100% theirs.

Most importantly, Namelessnumberheadman innovate - by filling their songs with a truly unique range of sounds and effortlessly arranging them in interesting and beautiful ways - without getting distant or overly technical. Your Voice Repeating is exploratory but also warm, personal, and moving. They've filled their songs out sonically, become even more comfortable with taking their music down unusual paths, and made their lyrics more enigmatic…yet at the same time they've somehow accentuated the feelings behind their songs. In fact, the emotions are so wedded to the experimentation that the further out they go, the further they take your heart.

"Time has pulled away," goes one of the first lines on the album, and throughout Your Voice Repeating there's a recurrent theme of the movement of time, and the accompanying emotional journeys going on within people. There's recurring images of motion and stillness (turning ceiling fans, clouds gliding across the sky), and musically there's both moments of Zen-like placidity and powerful crescendos and explosions, often in the same song. Much more than just drama, those changes in pace and intensity are perfectly orchestrated for aesthetic and emotional effect. And they're not always just choosing one or the other approach to a song - listen to "Going to Breathe Again," for example, where one of their most direct attacks, linked to the heartbreaking lyric "I couldn't figure out how I was ever going to breathe again," is accompanied by a spaced-out flurry of cymbals and a streamlined, funked-up synth-and-beats groove that could come from next decade's hip-hop hit. That's a moment where at the same time they're off dreaming in another galaxy and hitting you as directly as a smack in the face. That perfect balance between mad-scientist experimentation and emotional honesty is just part of what makes Your Voice Repeating so rewarding - the rest of the equation may be hard to define, but it's easy to fall in love with, as is every song on this album.

The Record Machine:

Issue 21, March 2004

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds