Nosaj Thing, ‘Home’ – Album Review
Here’s an old saw (with teeth recently sharpened by David Byrne in the book ‘How Music Works’): genres adapt, evolve and develop their sonic characteristics according to the environment in which the music is heard and the equipment needed to amplify the sound.
Consider the difference between, say, listening to dubstep on a laptop and experiencing dubstep at a proper rave. At the latter, the venue is equipped with gnarly speakers pushing massive loads of air at the crowd, pummeling people’s bodies with vibrations and making the act of listening not just a passive, auditory experience but a palpable, whole-body, sonic group grope. Everyone’s being touched/caressed/pounded by the same rhythms, frequencies and quakes simultaneously. (It’s not too hard to see where John Lithgow was coming from in ‘Footloose,’ is it?)
The music of David Chang, aka Nosaj Thing — like that made by Flying Lotus with him and Cornelius, or Boards of Canada before them, or O.G.s like Bernard Parmegiani way, way before them — is a similarly tactile experience, made ideally for an audience of one.
This type of left-field, atmospheric glitch relies on going beyond tones in order to pelt the listener’s skin with soundwaves. The roomy, melancholic music is emotionally earnest, for sure, but it demands that you strap on headphones to let the sound physically affect you. It needles, strokes, spirals and bites, and the physical sensations are as much of the experience as the sonic impressions.
So, is the sophomore album from Nosaj Thing worthy of feeling you up? Well, it’s a record you could bring home to your mom, so to speak. There’s nothing skeezy or grunting about this collection. In fact, ‘Home,’ as the title suggests, is a sensitive, introspective offering. It’s ultimately so meek that it fades into the background quickly, not leaving much to think about and not giving off much of an afterglow.
But it’s an ideal example of an album engineered for tactile response. (Imagine sticking a massage chair in your ear.) Unlike his debut, however, this album is totally harmless. Perhaps for the better. It is, after all, majestic background noise for the next time you’re, say, stoned and doing dishes or riding your bike to pick up a carrot salad or something. And if that’s what Chang set out to make, he succeeded — admirably and innocuously.