Julian Casablancas & The Voidz – Tyranny Review

Julian had left us guessing for a good few months before releasing ‘Human Sadness’ a few weeks ago. Before that, all we had to go off was a video discussion from within a thirty year old car and a short album preview. It almost continued in the vain of The Strokes near media blackout of the promotion of Comedown Machine, but since September Julian has emerged with various videos and appearances that included his and The Voidz showing on Jimmy Fallon last night. Tyranny is the follow up to Casablancas’ solo debut Phrazes For The Young from 2009; an album that signalled a greater shift in The Strokes sound and the ambitious sound being tried by Julian this year should do just that and a lot more.
‘Human Sadness’ is the most un-Julian track you could imagine at eleven minutes long and opens with strings that are set aside Julian’s more harmonious yet distorted vocal. It is joined by heavy jumps sample driven jolts and high voltage lead guitars that are layered over the steady rotating riff rhythms. The song then begins to take hard base punches as the vocals rise in volume conclude a controlled chaos sort of opening as it filters down into a reverberating and distant sound with Julian’s vocal before launching to immediacy and standing to attention as light hits the elements to show a mix of Julian’s vocals clashing with the wiry and the distorted guitar parts, along with the grinding beats behind it. It goes to lead into another electrified riff of high charge and into a bass driven interlude with Julian’s more traditional ‘early Strokes’ type of vocal and even with a hint of pop melody before yet anther change as the song’s riffs grow darker and heaver before fading off in an electronic ballad-like fashion and to a sweeping conclusion, as if the end of a play or some form of theatrical event. It’s pretty exhaustive listening to the track for the first time, never mind trying to make a cohesive description of it. Experimental has been the word used to save people some time as it’s hard to create a sub genre with enough dashes to make sense. ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ is at a much more sociable length for those with a lack of time on their hands but don’t expect any familiarity. In fact, that is fast becoming the best way to explain what this album might become. It commences with a gritty and deeply rooted bass line, almost krautrock-like before off kilter riff feeding off it and Julian’s lazy vocal meandering through it, before exploding with severe and quick moving urgency with Julian’s screams and bellows along with static and reverberating guitars and continues with a trap drop into a retro synth chord progression as it continues back into it’s manic and heavy chorus and before you know it, this is combined with pop like rapidity and electronica as Julian does his best Slipknot impression through a thick fog of distortion. It’s a manic and unrelenting record and again, it will take some time to sink in as so much was happening. That is a positive, however. It’s not predictable or easy to guess in any way. It’s exactly what we need to have such an established musician pushing the boundaries like this.
Heavily distorted tribal drum hits and synth beats open ‘Father Electricity’ alongside the loose reverberating riffs that are joined by heavily fuzzed out riffs and clean lead parts with Julian’s constantly meandering vocals that are filtered out by a thin glaze of distortion and distant recording. The bass line becomes more prominent as the track progresses and just highlights the rumbling and rattling nature of the track which is sparsely smoothed over with light organs and a finely warped, jangling guitar. Something akin to a holiday resort band on a tropical island. ‘Business Dog’ features eerily oscillating organs that are cut open by a fuzzed and low slung riff before the heavy echoed beats come in and the organs begin to nudge their way through the instrumentals which allows for the rhythm section to generate a real rapidity and urgency about the track with Stroke-like leads before it breaks off into a chamber of chiming organs and unrelenting bass lines from which Julian’s vocals stretch out above them as another alteration with clean sounding rhythms as it goes on to yet another distorted frenzy. Tracks such as ‘Xerox’ have a broken and creepy feel about a simple hip hop or dance beat as the synths above it twist and bend in a faded fashion. Julian’s vocals with this, are his most soft and weirdly endearing given the tone of the song. ‘Nintendo Blood’ bursts open with synth and modulated soakings with a deep electronic rumble beneath it. It generates a chime between the various sounds to grind out an inescapable hook around the nonchalant vocals. The song trails off into wiry cascades and riff briefly as it begins to sink to dark depths of distortion and manipulation, but the song resumes it’s mainstay sound again. ‘Take Me In Your Army’ features a low lying dubbed pulsation with a higher toned riff above it with Julian’s’ floating, pop swooning vocals over the top of it as it intermittent squealing riffs come and go. This album is one of the most ambitious and inventive that I’ve ever heard. No two minutes remain stable or familiar and there a buzz and charge throughout the whole album, that has largely been achieved by making the album gritty and murky in it’s presentation and production; whether you’re met by strings, trap drop sounds, wiry electronic guitar solos or sweeping organs. The album is so highly ambitious that not everything works and fits together effectively, but with a few listens things start to make more sense and in real terms it would be wrong if it sounded correct or family as that’s not the nature of experimentalism. An album that doesn’t give you a moment rest or peace as it throws everything at you. Wear a helmet if you want to listen to this album.
Julian Casablancas & The Voidz – Tyranny = 8.5/10

Single Review – Julian Casablancas and The Voidz – Human Sadness

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz | photo via spin.com
After what has seemed like an eternity, we finally have something solid from Julian Casablancas and The Voidz. We now have an album title in Tyranny and a release date of September 23rd. On top of this, there is now a track listing of twelve songs with titles such as ‘Xerox’, ‘Nintendo Blood’, ‘Crunch Punch’ and ‘Human Sadness’, which is today’s release. It is the most un-Julian track you could imagine at eleven minutes long and opens with strings that are set aside Julian’s more harmonious yet distorted vocal. It is joined by heavy jumps sample driven jolts and high voltage lead guitars that are layered over the steady rotating riff rhythms. The song then begins to take hard base punches as the vocals rise in volume conclude a controlled chaos sort of opening as it filters down into a reverberating and distant sound with Julian’s vocal before launching to immediacy and standing to attention as light hits the elements to show a mix of Julian’s vocals clashing with the wiry and the distorted guitar parts, along with the grinding beats behind it. It goes to lead into another electrified riff of high charge and into a bass driven interlude with Julian’s more traditional ‘early Strokes’ type of vocal and even with a hint of pop melody before yet anther change as the song’s riffs grow darker and heaver before fading off in an electronic ballad-like fashion and to a sweeping conclusion, as if the end of a play or some form of theatrical event. It’s pretty exhaustive listening to the track for the first time, never mind trying to make a cohesive description of it. Experimental has been the word used to save people some time as it’s hard to create a sub genre with enough dashes to make sense. My only advice would be to judge for yourself!