An avant-garde space adventure into the music of the 20th century from Monégasque metalheads who made a music video using Artificial Intelligence
WHAT’S GOING ON: Hardcore Anal Hydrogen’s fourth and best album “Hypercut” is a wild beast that can not be tamed but must be studied, admired, and appreciated. In essence, it’s a recording where a bunch of breakcore musicians has a lot of fun. And this fun entails not only blissful silliness but also deeply intelligent, encyclopedic reverence for music that is reflected in a wild 45 minutes of trips back and forth in the audible history of the recent years. Hailing from Monaco, a sleepy European kingdom that never gets associated with anything but boring bougie values, Hardcore Anal Hydrogen is lead by vocalist Sacha Vanony who also plays the flute and the guitarist Martyn Clement. They’re inspired by Aphex Twin, Jean Michel Jarre, and John Coltrane; they’re reminiscent of Mike Patton, Venetian Snares, The Residents and J Dilla drenched in red wine and cigarette water; and they made a music video using Google’s Deep Learning AI It’s not music for tourists: it’s for those who come to listen and stay forever.
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE: The album, which is one of the tightest and most cohesive I’d ever listened to, is fun to imagine as a kind of journey from earth to space, seen through the lens of pop culture. Each composition is an interpretation on a different theme, which simultaneously honors tradition and defies expectations. A cartoon score is interrupted by an unreliable broadband connection and is invaded by grindcore. Avant-garde jazz acquires quacking and then goes into loomy, spinning metal. Bluegrass meets clowns and pulpy film scores; middle eastern music descends into coughing. Perfect doo-wop unfolds into apocalyptic annihilation and then comes back again, while electronica becomes a hymn of dry heaving. A large part of the album is preoccupied with popular film score traditions, which were most peculiar in their European iterations, and you end up picturing the Hardcore Anal Hydrogen dudes blast off into the unknown from a Monégasque Tabac shop. Here they go, evading the approaching worms of the galaxy, anxious for something terrible creeping around the corner, as the album resolves into an opera of resistance. And then, boom, the usual positions are abandoned, everything transgresses into a bacchanalia of sound and fun, with some fairy dust sprinkles. And then you think you see the hologram of the band disappear into the void because this music is too complex to exist for real. But wait: Hardcore Anal Hydrogen show their chops and go out in true bizarro variety show fashion, with pianos, medieval music, and some flutes a la Morricone.
WHY DO WE CARE: Mischief is greatly admired in contemporary art, where satiric use of the formerly esteemed is encouraged, lauded with high price tags, and mass-produced out of existence. Cinema is bogged down by the old farts who take themselves too seriously, and bland big buck producers who suck the fun out of formerly pure camp and glorious genre orgies. But in music, the lowbrow and highbrow had been inbred so much that there is still enough space left for true naughtiness. Hardcore Anal Hydrogen are skilled and meticulous, but also funny, and this creates a rare form of talent that’s necessary to manifest a cultural truth. The genre of the album defies classification, but the band’s refusal to commit is probably what I like about them most. Not merely a factional outfit, but a testament to sound in general, they touch upon everything and make it come alive in a splendid, horrifying collage of an era.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN: Hardcore Anal Hydrogen makes music that stimulates all the pleasure centers at the same time. It gives the joy of recognition, it makes you laugh like a little maniac, and it inspires awe by the sheer dedication of the musicians to the subject of reinterpreting heritage. The mathematically precise imitations that form the basis for the band’s multi-layered arrangements are complex puzzles that can keep the listener entertained for days. You can play a kind of musical “heads-up” by trying to guess the inspiration behind each track or merely let it carry you into the weird void, where it’s undoubtedly headed. Hardcore Anal Hydrogen is an obscure gem of brainy avant-garde that widens and enriches your understanding of how music works while also giving joy. Perhaps Monaco can announce them as their national treasure?
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