Anticon acts by and large couldn’t be more different from each other. Technically a hip-hop label, the groups on the roster are only united in their constant experimentation with that genre and their ability to fit it into others. So it makes perfect sense that Antonionian’s self-titled debut would offer that experimentation in abundance. Over the course of nine tracks, Antonionian’s debut plays out like an Anticon sampler, with references to almost every path the label has explored in the past decade or so.
That’s probably because Antonionian happens to be Jordan Dalrymple. Don’t worry if that name isn’t ringing any bells; until this debut, Dalrymple had kept himself largely out of the spotlight. But my, what work he was doing in the shadows. As a key component of nearly every great Anticon act, from the seminal cLOUDDEAD project to Subtle, 13&God and Why? precursor Reaching Quiet, Dalrymple has been one of the label’s best kept secrets.
Dalrymple begins his debut by making it immediately clear what he brings to all of those groups- highly textured arrangements. The steady build-up of tones and bit crushed rhythms on opener “The Desert” echoes “Song Meat,” the first track from Subtle’s fantastic A New White. The instrumental track is both a fitting introduction to Antonionian and a bit of a con, tricking listeners into expecting the high-minded, aggressive artiness of his long-time collaborator in Subtle, Doseone.
That sly maneuver maximizes the potency of what follows. From the introductory percussive synth line of “Another Mistral,” Dalrymple shows off an unexpected capacity for minor key indie pop. With a voice that is to sweetness what Why?’s Yoni Wolf and Subtle’s Doseone are to sourness, Dalrymple shows that while he’s learned plenty from Wolf he also knows how to show off his own strengths – in this case, his charming vocal tone.
That emphasis stretches to “Vanquished,” which utilizes Dalrymple’s multi-tracked vocals in a way that’s not all that different from what Grizzly Bear is up to these days. But being an Anticon artist, Dalrymple isn’t content to stick to that particular route for very long. The follower to “Vanquished” is “The Ride,” almost its complete antithesis. Largely instrumental, “The Ride” is alternately funky and brainy, pitting big hooky synth lines against delicate percussion; the sole vocal appearance comes from the vocoderized line “I am only a passenger.” More straightforwardly funky is “Into the Night,” making great use of Dalrymple’s falsetto and providing a perfect example of what Chromeo with a brain would be like.
Towards the end of the album, Dalrymple has come full circle, returning to “The Desert” in more ways than one. “The Desert, Part 2″ continues the Subtle echoing, but this time’s it’s the distorted riffage and chanted, mantra-like vocals of For Hero: For Fool’s “The Mercury Craze.” But Dalrymple wisely chooses to close out the album with “Pull True,” a spacier affair that drops entire sections in order to let Dalrymple’s vocals float to the surface. With Antonionian, Dalrymple may not have exactly come out of Doseone or Yoni Wolf’s shadows but he’s easily proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with in his own right.