November 25, 2013
PREMIERE: Occurrence | Decks [album stream]
It's pretty safe to say that few among us are like Ken Urban. Mr. Urban is many things, first and foremost an accomplished playwright and academic, but his singularity lies in a perverse world view (as well as an admirable drive to explore it). He carries over a flair for drama and skull-grinding tension into the electronic musical project Occurrence, which came online in 2010 after many years dabbling with music within and without the context of his stage productions. As we wrote here in late 2012, Occurrence has in the past two years rapidly mutated in exciting ways, evolving from a vehicle for psychodramatic and almost confrontational confessionals to a platform for densely layered, excitingly textured and more overtly rhythmic music. The addition of Wayne S. Feldman (formerly of high-concept experimental unit therefore) in 2012 to the permanent roster injected a significant degree of nuance into the music of Occurrence, whose songs now are just as likely to reveal (or revel in) a looser, The Books-styled absurdity as they are the peculiar darkness that is Mr. Urban's calling card. The particularly attentive will recall Occurrence closed out the 2012 Clicky Clicky Ride tribute comp Nofuckingwhere with a claustrophobic and noisy iteration of the song "Nowhere." But it was with the release last fall of the brilliant The Cotton Floppy EP that Occurrence sounded almost reborn. This week we finally hear the full promise of that EP delivered via the digital issuance of the now Cambridge- and New York-based duo's formidable new full length Decks.
Recorded over 18 months and sprawling over 15 songs and 55 minutes, the collection ebbs and flows and encompasses elements of hip hop ("Awesome Jean Jacket," featuring a next-level rhyme set from not-infrequent collaborator Jeff Stern) as well as turn-of-the-'90s, Consolidated-style sampletronic ("DTMLNJ"). The front end of the record is highlighted by compelling sequential tracks that encapsulate the darkness/lightness yin and yang of Occurrence in 2013. "Sleep Forager" melds guttural and raw no-wave guitar to a punishing, rudimentary jungle beat which buoys a nefarious-sounding chant by Urban. The bad vibes there are quickly neutralized by the wide-eyed reverie of "Little Junior Skagscroft" [video], which is colored substantially by Mr. Feldman's found-sound spoken-word recording of an apparently infatuated boy (who giggles a bit like Suzanne Somers circa "Three's Company"). The chirping voice is appended to a surprisingly pleasant synth melody and propulsive yet light rhythm tracks; fans may recognize the song as a new iteration of the Cotton Floppy highlight "Philip's Emotion Cards," because, well, that's what it is. The EP's "We Were The Future, Now We're Past" also made the cut for the full-length, but there is a whole lot of new and exciting stuff on Decks as well. There are even a few surprises, including a stunning vocal performance by the shadowy fronter of the turn-of-the-century project And Joseph, Mike RobbGrieco, who sings the Urban-penned album closer "Never Alone." The album version layers in some backing vocals by Urban and various electronic adornments, but a "naked" version of the track is available on Soundcloud and is even more spine-tingling. Decks will be released digitally to subscribers of Occurrence's mailing list later this week on Thanksgiving (remember Urban's perverse world view referenced supra?), with a physical release arriving Jan. 7. We are thrilled to be able to premiere for Clicky Clicky readers the entire record, which you can stream via the Soundcloud embed below. If you like what you hear, it's not too late for you to subscribe and get the whole shebang in your inbox at the end of the week.
Occurrence: Internets | Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud