New York based artist Arthur Ashin, or Autre Ne Veut, is relatively new to the world of music but he’s already carving out an interesting style of his own. Ashin’s music is of a style heavily influenced by soul and R&B with a heavy electronic edge. What sets him apart from the field is an unusual feeling that runs throughout his latest release, and it’s advertised quite boldly on the cover: Anxiety.
Something unusual happens when two opposing forces come together in harmony. In the case of Autre Ne Veut, a campy plastic soul sound of sensual beats and falsetto vocals meets with lyrical themes that come from frightening places. This is not a new motif. The combination of catchy tunes and dark lyrics has been a winning combination for years, and there’s something almost sublime about it in many cases. With Anxiety, Ashin shows that his music is something more than it first appears to be.
Ambient keyboard melodies, bright arpeggios, and choral backing vocals form the backdrop for Ashin’s unsettling ballads. Clean beats with reverberating claps punctuate his lines. Production like this indicates a great music talent and sensibility, and here it’s combined with a nervous energy that shows real emotion. It’s not even anger or depression that shines through most of the time–it’s just feeling.
Anxiety is so passionate that it feels slightly tongue-in-cheek at times, but in a way that’s more responsible than silly. The anxiety of the album is so addled with catchy dance motifs and cheesy harmonizing that it almost becomes a straight R&B album. On “Ego Free Sex Free,” it seems like Ashin is reaching for the tender sentiments that have been advertised in R&B and dance music for years. Songs like “Warning” and “Gonna Die,” however, play on the darker side of those sentiments, putting the blues back in rhythm and blues. There’s a lot of raw emotion in this album, which has become rare in pop music today.
Autre Ne Veut’s latest release is a solid collection of songs that would sound right at home on most pop radio stations. It’s as highly polished and catchy as any of the top 40 hits of the day, but there’s something different about it. Anxiety is a very personal work, full of the kind of emotion and real feeling that are usually absent in music of this kind.