The World Is Gone
fter a series of breathtaking seven inches over the past year-plus (two of which are included here) and a twelve-inch designed to throw the listener for a loop (“I’m Really Hot”), Various—formed of two shadowy gents named Adam and Ian—has built some seismic hype for The World Is Gone, engendered in great part by the duo’s secrecy. They’ve kept themselves out of the press for the most part, and managed to seclude themselves well, tipping no hand on their cryptic website. Whether or not it lives up to this largesse is immaterial; the fact is that The World is Gone is one of the year’s most interesting, and peculiarly broad, full-lengths.
A dizzying collection of styles and shapes—from dubstep, to playgirl grime, to spartan folk, and weathered trip-hop—The World Is Gone would be easy to dismiss as an ADHD-addled genrefuck. Where it makes its mark is in how well these jagged stylistic leaps coalesce. The opening “Thunnk”’s clingy static boom is a palate-setter, easing the listener onto Various’ peculiar soundstage, while “Circle of Sorrow” marks its first WTF-moment, a gorgeous folk lament aglide on acoustic guitar, stormy production clicks, and billowy female vocals. “Don’t Ask” finds the duo buried in a casket of earthy dubstep, leading to the now-familiar Celtic grime of “Hater.” The songs don’t exactly lock fingers, as they pass from one to the next, but rather touch just a ‘tip of their neighbor, and let the fingers slide out of feel. There’s little to linger, but the segue is usually flawless.
“Lost,” included as an instrumental on the “What About Them?” twelve-inch, is one of the duo’s most remarkable new cuts. Atop a thicket of clanging electronic dub, Various allows their songsmithery to master the sound of their machinery, much as they do on woodsy closer “Fly.” “Sweetness” takes “Sir”’s pulsing vocal-styles and turns them rank and foul, chanting against the film-noir soundscape beneath. Where “Deadman” is a swooning fireside folk song, “Today” makes sour-mash out of the morning’s hope with its stinging sine waves and broken-bone beats. The title track splits open its dubstep base to reveal an odd slather of Eastern psychedelia and shrill horn sections.
For the most part, Various Production is at their best when they add a flick of honey to their salty productions. At times, they have to back away from their own claustrophobia, and the layering of female vocals over many of the most compelling cuts here—like “Deadman,” “Lost,” “Circle of Sorrow,” or “Fly”—flushes the ink from your eyes with a palpable sense of night-lit sorrow. In fact, their most intimate and scarcely filled productions somehow wind up their most singular. When they misstep, as they do on the cat-scratch-theater of “Soho,” which sounds like a NIN remix, their stifling sense of sound detailing sucks the air out of the album. Fortunately, they’re as talented at sequencing as they are at hunting down fascinating vocalists, and The World Is Gone manages the nigh impossible by measuring up to, if not outelectrifying, its underground current.