Flat-out, Westernization Completed is one of those odd releases that caught me completely off guard, and I can't stop listening to it. The brain project of Antye Greie (who has worked with Laub, Craig Armstrong, and Vladislav Delay), it's a complete mash of styles, taking spoken word, song, jazz, glitch, trip-hop, field recording and just about everything else and tossing it in the sonic blender for something that sounds like different things you may have heard in places, but like some other releases in recent years, comes out of leftfield and sounds a little bit unlike anything you've ever heard.
The release itself is more than just a CD, it's sort of like a small piece of conceptual art in and of itself. Bound in a fancy hardback book, it fits perfectly as a companion piece to the music as paintings and photographs are digitally manipulated and drawn upon while the organic gets ocassionally decimated by the digital.
So goes the album as well, which is often about as off kilter as one could imagine. If hip-hop praises quick-thinking and a smooth flow, this project is the celebration of how the rest of us think most of the time. Fractured thoughts align with fractured beats and melodies while stream of consciousness type lyrics are filtered through an alternately harsh and lush atmosphere that varies between beautiful and even spooky. "LETSmakeOURmovies" opens the disc with a fluttering synth melody broken apart into warm aquatic pads while Greie adds mostly unprocessed vocals before things shift into the more beat-oriented "ambientTRUST." Even saying something is beat heavy on the release, though, is a bit misleading, as the track lopes along like it's on the verge of collapse, kick drums and faint chimes echoing through the quiet haze while chopped-up vocal phrases spit out broken syllables and ocassional one-word statements.
It's on "PRIVATEbirds" that the album really takes stride, though. With another completely sputtering rhythm and an almost dub-like sense of sparse movement, silence is much of an element as sound and every dramatic rise is punctuated even more because of that. "REfail" continues in a similar mode, as the beat grows even more prominent as haunting synths are alternately clean and destructed and elements come and go at split-second notice, keeping you on your toes each moment of listening. Moving in other directions, "Chorizon" doesn't sound disimilar to a more deconstructed Prefuse 73 while "POEMproducer" bumps back and forth into one another like ripples of water after skipping a pebble across water, ocassionally lining up nicely, but more often bumping up against itself and trying to fit into place.
Because most of the songs lack a traditional structure, many listeners will find the release a bit challenging, but the sound design of the disc alone is enough to warrant a recommendation for at least one listen. It is literally one of the most interesting releases that I've heard this year in terms of level of sonic detail, and you'll definitely hear something new and intricate every time you listen. Some of the lyrics (this is Greie's first English-speaking release) are a smidge on the awkward side, but as mentioned above, it actually works with the release. At times it's elegant, but many other times it captures moments in that slightly-off way that is actually more human than most note-perfect releases. If you're looking for something completely different, check this out.