Antonionian is Oakland’s Jordan Dalrymple -- drumcrusher, beatslayer, multi-instrumentalist and erstwhile keeper of the Subtle sound. As one of that cult-hallowed sextet’s chief producers (along with Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Jeffrey “Jel” Logan), Jordan had a heavy hand in crafting those inimitable electro rap-gone-Kraut scores. But with Antonionian, the longtime sideman who also plays with French pop act General Elektriks and experimental supergroup 13 & God, steps out from behind the curtain to carve out his very own post-everything avant-funk.
Jordan’s is a propulsive and dreamlike sound that finds him bending voice, electronics and various acoustics to his unique ends -- something that nods to the dark art-rock of London archetypes This Heat, “Paisley Park”-era Prince and contemporaries TV On the Radio, albeit channeled through one man. Antonionian is a result of a compact musical lineage. Jordan’s mother was a singer, his father a classical percussionist, and their son was sitting behind a kit by the age of 3. By high school, he was versed in piano and theory and had begun teaching himself guitar and practicing drums five hours a day. His dad had to soundproof the garage.
In 1996, Jordan followed his band Conglomerate from San Diego to Berkeley. Dax Pierson was a member too, and a record store job or two later, they formed Subtle in Jordan’s Oakland flat. There, above a Chinese restaurant, the group recorded its first four EPs with Jordan in the role of Can’s Holger Czukay, engineering and editing the experiment. He also toured with cLOUDDEAD and an early version of WHY?, Reaching Quiet. In 2004, Subtle released its debut LP, A New White. On the band’s first tour, their van rolled and Dax was paralyzed from the neck down.
That moment proved both devastating and edifying. Like his colleagues, Jordan doubled down on music, and the results were two more increasingly imaginative Subtle albums -- 2006’s For Hero: For Fool and 2008’s ExitingARM -- as well as countless hours on the road before they disbanded in ’09. Since, Jordan’s been hitting skins and buttons for General Elektriks (Honeycut and Blackalicious collaborator Hervé Salters), fine-tuning the long-awaited second album from 13 & God (the Notwist + Themselves), and crafting his solo debut as Antonionian, a name aptly inspired by the hypnagogic works of filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni.
Antonionian s/t (anticon./Discograph)
With his debut solo album, Subtle’s Jordan Dalrymple marches into the unknown following the dissolution of his groundbreaking band. Luckily, the unknown was that group’s terra firma, and he’s perfectly at home in the wilds he pioneers as Antonionian. Taking a cue from his project’s namesake -- modernist Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni -- Jordan reveals a world of dreamlike detachment and depth, colored by spare dialog and impressionistic imagery, over a score that ranges from propulsive lo-bit hip-hop to three-dimensional avant-funk.
On the upbeat standout, “Into the Night,” Jordan teams up with General Elektriks mastermind Hervé Salters to pay unexpected tribute to Prince. The track is both unabashedly poppy and arty -- a perfect storm of electronic throb, eerie keyboard work, moody piano, falsetto’d vocals and finger snaps. On either side are songs that deal out light and dark to varying degrees. There are “The Desert” parts one and two, chiefly instrumental pieces that set a foreboding yet cathartic scene. There’s the comely clatter of “My Mind’s I” featuring the quaking wail of Carrie Clough, and the swooning submerged harmonies and aqueous synth flutter of “Vanquished.”
But whether it’s the brightly minimal surge of the Laurie Anderson-checking electro track “The Ride” or the lurching, almost disorienting surrealist stomp of closer “Pull True,” Antonionian is bound by Jordan’s ear for mercurial melodies and unyielding rhythms. To this end, he employs drums both live and button-punched, guitars both acoustic and electric, and all manner of keyed things. He drops his voice to a whisper, or builds it up into a blackened, choral om. The final result is a highly visual, visceral experience that explores without apology. “I’ve always played on the side of all the unrepentant,” Jordan sings on “Fate’s Not Particular.” Amen to that.
The self-titled LP drops March 15th in America on anticon. and March 21st in Europe on Discograph.