The Unnamed Road – Noah Avery (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

This latest album from Noah Avery might be the perfect example of how to make music in the current age. As technology has widened the possibilities for the grassroots musician and attitudes towards the tribalism and generic labels of the past have changed, today’s music maker has a freedom that has possibly never existed before. The rigidity of deciding where you fit in stylistically has gone. The world is your oyster, as they say. The choice between traditional analog instruments and digital tools has blown things wide open. Music is now anything you want it to be. And it is this freedom that Noah Avery embraces in a way that most other artists are yet to.

Morning Prayer, a short introductory piece which eases us into the album, hints at a sort of chilled dance suite of music or even an ambient soundscaping collection, but as soon as the first proper track, Feet to the Floor, kicks in things have already moved on. It raises the musical tempo through pulsing bass lines and slick, sassy dance floor beats and by the time Can’t Move Me arrives you realise that this is going to be a much more interesting album than you may have first thought. From ambient chill to the razor-wire, electro-rock that Trent Reznor might be associated with in just three songs. Now that’s interesting, to say the least.

And that’s how things progress, unpredictable and wonderfully so. Hot Pocket is the bastard son of 70’s funk and 21st century electronica; brass stabs, percussion skitters, beats boogie and it becomes impossible to separate one from the other, to tell where the past ends and the future begins, which are the samples and which is the modern creative cement holding everything together. Man Made Earth feels like the sort of sonic exploration Talking Heads did in search of their later funk driven sound, if they had been pursuing that goal in the here and now and with the benefit of 40 years of clubland hindsight. It wanders between sassy grooves and swaggering breakdowns, plays with melodic moods and a slight hint of melancholy and although it tips it’s hat to a number of familiar past styles, as always it is the way that those are taken apart and re-assembled which is the real trick. It’s a trick that Noah Avery performs better than most.

Welcome The Thief is a strange brew, a folky feel to the song but rendered through the now familiar, electronic elements. Folktronica? Heavy Wood? Electro Roots? The fact that I am now just making up genres to try and impart some ideas to the reader shows just how unique this album in general and how forward-thinking this track in particular is. And so the album continues on its way warping styles and assimilating sounds as it goes, the title track even wandering some searing electro-rock territories, before the album bows out with another short minimalist sonic prayer.

I often talk about the redundancy of genres but this album takes that idea to its most logical conclusion. It is an album which merges and melds musical ideas, retains the essence of dance driven music whilst dressing those core values up with all manner of unexpected musical trappings. It’s a solo composer sounding like a band, it’s a musical Trojan Horse smuggling subversive ideas into the mainstream, it is a sound clash of dance and electro-pop, digital rock and soundtracking, cinematic strangeness, alternative soul and addictive melodies.

What to you give someone who claims to have heard everything? You give them The Unnamed Road, that should keep them occupied for a while!

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