nameless number headman
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nameless number headman

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The best kept secret in music


"Your Voice Repeating - Review - 8.7"

Rating: 8.7

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

"Top 10/20/50 of 2004"

Pitchfork Media - #8 on Michael Idov's top 30 albums of 2004; #42 on Joe Tangari's top 50 albums of 2004
Pop Matters - #6 on Dave Heaton's top 20 of 2004
Indie Workshop - Jake Haselman's top 10 list for 2004
Coke Machine Glow - #32 on the CMG'sTop 50 of 2004
Sonic Spectrum - #2 Honorable Mention on Robert Moore's Top 10 albums of 2004. - Various

"Your Voice Repeating - Review"

Namelessnumberheadman's (NNHM) debut full-length took me by complete surprise. As much as the typical musiclistening
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
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 Marsh, Editor-In-Chief, 3/15/04 - Delusions Of Adequacy

"Top 10/20/100 for 2002"

#6 on Robert Moore's best of 2002 list (host of Sonic Spectrum on KCUR)
#6 on Scott Wilson's top 10 list of 2002 – Magnet/Pitch
#7 on Dave Heaton's top 10 list of 2002 -
#8 on Andrew Miller's top 10 list of 2002 – Pitch
#27 on Pitch's top 100 list of 2002 – Pitch
#594 Pazz & Jop 2002 – Village Voice
Jake Haselman's top 10 list of 2002 – - Various

"when we leave, we will know where we've been - Review"

The members of this quietly proggy Kansas City, MO, trio- named after a character in Steven Soderbergh's little-seen
Schizopolis recently cited Metropolis and The Sweet Hereafter as their favorite movies. There you have it, then: selfconscious
indie gesticulation, primitive grace and icy grief. But the self-consciousness is limited to the band's
cumbersome name and the elliptical title of its second release, the analog keyboards (all nine of them) are plaintive
rather than plinky and the music itself emerges from the ice floes and builds like little blue fires rather than succumbing
to hypothermia. Succinct and accessible, this isn't gentrified art rock or wheat-field Radiohead, but if the group called
Iceland home, it would end up on the cover of The Wire. Though comparisons have been lobbed likening
namelessnumberheadman to such outfits as Gastr Del Sol and Grandaddy, the band's sound isn't that self-involved, and
When We Leave is far from rustic. Even given the inevitable ProTooling, songs like the opening "Rest Assured" (on
which harvest-colored acoustic guitar lines lead to humming bass pedals and laser-light-show-ready keyboard
flourishes) stay in the pocket protector. The combinations aren't crude and mottled, but the group's finesse – cellos and
chunky live drums, flying-saucer synth washes and smoothly unaffected vocals, a Neal Young-battles-the-pink-robots
piano ballad – doesn't feel cloned, either. Whatever else it isn't, though, When We Leave is original and exciting.
– Scott Wilson - Magnet Magazine


2005: Pauses, Ums, and Eyebrow Raises (Covers EP)
2004: Your Voice Repeating
2002: When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been
2000: 100,000 subtle times


Feeling a bit camera shy


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. While 100,000 Subtle Times was an impressive introduction to the group's sound, their local reputation was solidified with the release of their first full-length, When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been, released in 2002 on local Urinine Records. That album amplified everything they do; it was bigger, more layered, more ambitious and more beautiful. It was praised by local press and even slipped onto the Village Voice Pazz & Jopp Poll due to the unabashed love of it by a couple of critics. And it's an easy album to love. Rich textures and loads of atmosphere meet sharply crafted songs. The sonic confidence that album exudes seems like a stepping stone to great, magical things. Namelessnumberheadman is still very much a Kansas City band -- they're played only a handful of shows outside of the area -- yet it's only a matter of time before their name is known everywhere. – Dave Heaton