Sunday, August 31, 2014
Ex-NIN Chris Vrenna's impressive Industrial Electro Rock Debut
To understand Tweaker’s music, it is important to first examine this painting (also the album’s cover). When former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna saw artist Joe Sorren’s rendering of this pale, slouching, ill-proportioned, coffee-drinking man staring anxiously at a typewriter hanging in an LA art gallery, he became obsessed, visiting the gallery every week just to look at it. A friend eventually purchased the painting for Vrenna, and it has apparently hung in his home ever since. Finally, his obsession culminated in the creation of The Attraction to All Things Uncertain, Vrenna’s first solo album and attempt to tell this character named Elliot’s story through music. The painting hung in the studio as Vrenna recorded the album, Elliot silently watching the process.
Vrenna uses a mix of mysterious, swirling electronics, a few bleeps and bloops, and the occasional rock guitar assault to create Elliot’s story. His NIN background is apparent at times, most tracks showing at least some Industrial edge. However, Vrenna does much more than simply play backup to Trent Reznor’s ego – he has been an instrumental producer in Alternative Rock, working with the Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Green Day, Rob Zombie, and many more. He has even re-mixed such artists as U2, Weezer, and even Nelly Furtado, and worked on collaborations with Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre. Vrenna obviously knows his way around many different types of music, and it shows.
The Attraction to All Things Uncertain starts out dark, with a large weight on Elliot’s mind perhaps, and becomes progressively lighter as Elliot supposedly resigns himself quietly to the fact that his life will pass largely unnoticed. The first section is more rock-based, the first track almost bordering on Nu-Metal. Massive drum beats come together with creepy electronics, Alterna-fuzz guitar, and haunting samples for a large, dark sound. In contrast, the last tracks are almost Electro-Pop, bringing in lighter synths, more obvious dance beats and less bassy sounds. These tracks seem like a sigh of relief after the album’s harsh beginning.
Another testament to Vrenna’s varied experience is his choices for guest vocalists. Though there are only four vocal tracks on the album, they are placed perfectly to give the listeners a more obvious idea of what’s going on with their new friend Elliot. David Sylvian (Japan) starts the album off with a dark, creepy, vocal track “Linoleum” that breaks down with harsh guitars and presents Elliot’s somber sense of confusion. Buzz Osbourne (Melvins)soon follows up with "Swamp", Will Oldham (Palace) then turns up about halfway through with "Happy Child" the album’s turning point, still creepy yet somehow a love song. You’ve never heard Oldham like this. Finally, Craig Wedren (Shudder to Think) closes off the album with "After All", a more hopeful feeling, his lighter vocals delivering lines like, “Dark night is dawning after all…I do not fear this after all.”
The album is at it’s best on the tracks with sparsely-used samples. They give an idea of Elliot’s thoughts, like “Where do you see yourself six months from now?” while still allowing the listener to add his or her own interpretation. “Microsize Boy” is also an excellent tribute to the vocoder, although it seems slightly out of place with it’s retro stylings. All in all, the straight-up electronic tracks are well done. Since each has it’s own place in Elliot’s thought process, each is different, and the listener can decide for him or herself exactly what Elliot is thinking at any given point.
Tweaker’s story of Elliot is a direct challenge to anyone who argues that electronic music is impersonal and unemotional. Even without the story provided by the vocal tracks, one could easily follow Elliot through his self-realization process with simply music alone. If only we could all have such a soundtrack for our own lives.