Enon: Gnawing Away at the Shaky Future of Pop Music
By
Christopher Sebela
1/7/2003 4:10:10 PM

Good music is a lot like the first time you ever smacked the side of the TV with your hand and found, to your amazement, that it fixed the problem; roughshod solutions to high-tech problems and things that shouldn’t work, miraculously working.

Enon is the perfect broken TV of music these days. Wired together from the flotsam of Brainiac (John Schmersal), Skeleton Key (Rick Lee) and Blonde Redhead (Toko Yasuda), they produce something totally new from the wreckage of post-punk rock with High Society [Touch & Go]. Produced by Dave Sardy, former frontman of wall-of-rock enthusiasts Barkmarket, all signs point to a giant tapestry of intellectual rage and ponderance. But while everyone involved cut their teeth on sparse musical landscapes, strangled guitars and the big boom mixed with the quiet hush, Enon throws all that aside and gets down to the business of producing solid pop music for a new millennium.

That they’re in on the joke is what makes High Society work. The first track, “Old Dominion,” kicks in with bass, guitar and drums all at full throttle, a big frenzied rush for the finish line. Then, without warning, the album eases into the narcoleptic singalong of “Count Sheep” and just as quickly gives us “In This City,” where Yasuda lets her velvet voice croon alongside lilting synthesizers and programmed beats.

High Society has enough electronics to sink a studio. Robotic voices, layers of samples crawling in and out of the real instruments, and endless highlights and textures buried in the mix, revealing themselves with countless listens and a good pair of headphones. While there’s plenty of albums out there boasting Aphex-ian blips and Mum-esque melodies, Enon challenges them all with an album that adds everything up into 15 tracks of lush pop masterpieces.

Hopscotching across musical influences as diverse as Magnetic Fields and Boredoms, tossing in plenty of Devo to match wits with the sloe-eyed lyricism of Arthur Lee, Enon is bent on confusing your sensibilities while making your head move of its own accord. There’s the cretinous riot of “Pleasure and Privilege,” the 80’s new wave clunk of “Shoulder” and the culmination of the title track, complete with brushed on drum licks and heartbeat bass lines.

All well and good on its own, Enon also went to the trouble of writing clever and heartfelt lyrics to go along with it, taking enough occasions to step back and giggle at themselves and the audience at the same time with songs espousing ‘middle finger in the air’ ideology.

Enon works on the same level as the New Pornographers’ Mass Romantic, cranking up a roll call of musical styles and approaches, a cadre of seemingly random conspirators and making your jaw drop a bit with the realization that it works. Not in a gee whiz, bedroom recording fashion, but in a bit of awe that they strolled into a studio and walked out with a portfolio that most bands don’t achieve in an entire career.

High Society is Enon’s second album, and already they’ve gone through several members, but they’ve made such a quantum leap from their first release that it’s enough to put a tremble in you wondering what comes next and who sits on the list of future wunderkinds ready to gnaw away at the ever shaky future of pop music.

 

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