namelessnumberheadman
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namelessnumberheadman

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Review of "Your Voice Repeating" 8.7/10"

In concert, Namelessnumberheadman are a frightening jumble of keyboards and samplers; cords snake to and from a formidable onstage mixing board. With the exception of the often-singing drummer, the musicians are almost comically de-emphasized, moving between instruments in precise yet panicky little dashes. It all looks less like a science lab than like a low-budget set of one, complete with slightly overacting extras.

Given this visual and the band's off-putting moniker (it's a reference to Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis, if you must know, but then you mustn't), you might expect Namelessnumberheadman to play something profoundly anal-retentive, like microhouse. You certainly wouldn't be prepared for distinctly Western vocal harmonies of "Going to Breathe Again", the laid-back verses of "Every Fiber", or the Nick Drake strum that opens "Mid-Continent". For all the considerable studio trickery on display throughout NNHM's second album, its primary instrument is the acoustic guitar and its primary mood sweetly elegiac.

Your Voice Repeating is by no means a folk album crusted over with itchy-scratchy production. It is, like Suzanne Vega's 99.9º F (and not much else), a completely natural union of "organic" (guitar, porch) and "mechanical" (bedroom, headphones, ACID 4.0) approaches to songwriting-- each informing, mocking and correcting the other along the way. A perfect example of the resulting tension is an instrumental track titled, well, "Tension Envelopes". This is a trance title if there ever was one, and for a minute it seems as if things are heading in that direction, albeit with added twang. Over a sampled kick counting eighths, a six-beat-long guitar loop shimmers, shifting hypnotically against the beat. The song then builds to the shaggy-dog version of your classic dancefloor crescendo (beats, riffs, keys pile up like an unattended Tetris game)-- only to resolve, three minutes in, into a languid concerto of mewling slide guitars.

Another stunner, "Going to Breathe Again", opens with a tinny breakbeat, tosses up one exquisitely sculpted guitar verse reminiscent of The Shins in both sound and quality, and ends on a surprise compromise between the two. Following this level of sophistication, it's hard to go back to, say, The Postal Service, or any other band that dresses up verse/chorus/verse structures in IDM drag and calls its job done.

NNHM's songs have a tendency to melt around our ears. "Woke Up to Find" is a Moebius strip of a ballad living inside its own ambient intro: A simple main melody is clearly forthcoming-- almost present-- but never quite pulls itself into focus. Elsewhere, a perfect-pop verse disappears suddenly in a swirl of elements, swallowed up by the very organs and chimes that made it pleasant to begin with. The real wonder is that there's not a jarring turn on the album: All transitions seem to heed their own dreamlogic. Mutations are often subtle and gradual. My uneducated guess about Namelessnumberheadman's production methods is that they sample tidbits of their songs in real time, proceed to digitally twist them into abstraction, then un-twist back. What results is a weirdly humanistic, highly accessible approach to experimental electronics.

Your Voice Repeating is an album shot through with digital pulses, yet there's not a single moment where you don't feel the hand on the button. Namelessnumberheadman succeed in creating a technocratic pasture where machines are given souls but don't turn on their masters. The album's title, and a short song that contains it, spell out the band's manifesto better than I could: Your voice, even put through the rude mechanics of repetition, is still your voice.

-Michael Idov, June 17th, 2004 - Pitchfork Media


"Review of "Your Voice Repeating""

I’ve had this album sitting on my desk for a while now. It has taunted me really. It begs me to write about it, to share my feelings about it, but the hard part isn’t what my feelings are about the album… it’s explaining what the hell this sounds like.

I love it, I love this album. I think I love it more than their first album, which made it on my favorites of 2002. It’s great. Probably one of the best things I’ve heard all year… I’m going to say it’s probably still going to be on the top of my list at the end of the year.

“But Jake”, you say, “What the hell does it sound like?”

Boy, this is where the review gets hard.

Much of the same references can be made. Parts of Grandaddy, Radiohead, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and almost anything and everything else you can think of. The band is all of this and none of this. They are their own creation, fully. No one else sounds like NNHM and once you’ve heard them, you’ll never mistake them for anyone else.

They weave thick, orchestral pop songs in with minimalist electronic splices. Everything is seamless. The electronic parts are mixed in with the organic pop in the most natural way. Nothing seems forced or out of placed. Like a highly complex puzzle, if all the pieces are in place the picture is flawless and beautiful. And what these three have put together will rival any of their peers as far as beauty goes.

Just seek it out and buy it. Listen to it over and over. Then e-mail me and let me know how I could have written this review better. Because I’m really at a loss for words. Jake Hassleman - Indie Workshop


"Review of "Your Voice Repeating""

Namelessnumberheadman's (NNHM) debut full-length took me by complete surprise. As much as the typical music-listening person wants simple labels and simple music, NNHM defies labels and doesn't really make simple music. By mixing lo-fi pop sensibilities with modern electronic beats, synths, and synthetic sounds, NNHM can sound different on every track and with every listen. Although not surprised by the Kansas City trio's sophomore release, I'm no less blown away.

If genres meant anything, one might describe NNHM's sound as electronic lo-fi indie pop, with hints of bands as disparate as The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, the Notwist, and the Postal Service heard on these tracks. But NNHM doesn't sound like any of them; this is a unique style, blending sweet, embracing pop structures with intricate beats, textured synths, and stellar songwriting. If you still can't imagine what NNHM sounds like, I don't blame you, but that only means the album should be required listening.

This album cemented itself into my subconscious when the second track, "Every Fiber," bursts out of the intro track with a crescendo of guitars and crashing drums and fades into the most glorious pop song, light and dreamy and psychedelic in tone. "Full & Frayed" feels deceptively simple, with soft vocals and acoustic guitars playing over some hushed beats, giving the band a bit of a Radiohead feel, while my favorite track, "Going to Breathe Again," mixes vocals, beats, guitars, and synths into one glorious, swirling song that's surprisingly personal in feel while upbeat enough to be catchy. The textured beats on "Attic Fan" contrast nicely with the soft piano and soft vocals.

Occasionally the band lets the indie-pop take a second place to the electronic, as on the inherently danceable "Tension Envelopes," but there's organic guitars here keeping the track grounded, and the track quickly changes tone to a mellow, almost country feel with lap steel providing a mood that wouldn't be out of place on a Will Oldham track. I doubt another band, anywhere, could pull off such contrasting tones so well in one fantastic song. There's some interesting electronic elements on the more instrumentally themed "Mid-Continent" and "(At Least) Three Cheers for Cause & Effect" as well, both taking soaring, textured approaches.

Put the cumbersome band name - taken from a character in Steven Soderbergh's film Schizopolis - out of your head; NNHM is not difficult to listen to or enjoy, it's just difficult to define. The music here is actually quite beautiful, for even with synthesizes and electronic beats, NNHM's music is enveloping and lovely. With lush texturing and impeccable production, Your Voice Repeating is a brilliant release, and one without a doubt worth repeating.

- Jeff, 3/15/04 - Delusions of Adequacy


Discography

"100,000 Subtle Times" (debut EP released in 2000)
"When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been" (LP released in 2002)
"Your Voice Repeating" (LP released in 2004)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

People who've never been there might hear "Kansas City" and think Dorothy and Toto or, if somewhat more enlightened, jazz and barbecue. But there are more progressive things going on there than you might expect. In their own humble and low-key way, the Kansas City, Missouri-based trio Namelessnumberheadman have been blazing a trail that solidifies the invisible bridge between far-off galaxies and rural landscapes. They take heartfelt, melodic pop songs with a folk-ish acoustic tinge and swirl them into futuristic, electronic soundscapes. Their songs are both ear-pleasing and exploratory; you can hum along and feel like you've been transported somewhere new. As critic Scott Wilson aptly put it in a recent Magnet review, "if the group called Iceland home, it would end up on the cover of The Wire."

Named after a character in Steven Soderbergh's film Schizopolis, the group has an anything-goes approach that allows ample room for surprise. Sometimes the best way to go somewhere new is to do whatever you want and see where it takes you. Yet their music also has a down-to-earth quality, as if they're your best friends or next-door neighbors. Their lyrics tackle real-life longings in an ambiguous way that leaves room for interpretation. Introspection and mystery meet in the lyrics and the music, as do emotion and innovation. They hit you in the heart while lifting you off into space.

Andrew Sallee, Chuck Whittington, and Jason Lewis have been known as Namelessnumberheadman since the year 2000, though they've known each other since high school and two of them made music together back then. They made their name in Kansas City through an action-packed live show which blew away even casual observers and a $5, 6-song CD (100,000 Subtle Times) that those observers took home and obsessed over. Playing at a variety of venues around KC, with some of the city's best acts, the group soon received praise from writers at the local newsweekly, Pitch Weekly, which in 2002 named the group "Best Electronic/DJ/Dance" act. The fact that they play with traveling indie-rock groups and local rock acts yet can be classified as "electronic" is a testament to the way they're combined disparate sounds into one unclassifiable musical animal.

Their live shows start with Andrew on drums, Chuck playing both guitar and keyboards, and Jason playing keyboards and other devices, but they're likely to switch instruments mid-song, managing to create more sounds than three people should be able to. – Dave Heaton