I had never heard of the term “alternative jazz” until just a few days ago when I listened to Anenon and his new record Sagrada. Considering how many different branches of jazz there actually are, I figured it was more or less some type of experimental jazz, to likes of Sun Ra or John Zorn. I was somewhat surprised to hear elements of electronic music and smooth jazz mixed conveniently together. Brian Allen Simon grew up in a house with his father’s record collection, but it wasn’t until he became obsessed with hip hop as a teenager and went to college to study music did he truly began to appreciate his father’s music. Eventually he developed a new obsession with jazz music, a logical ending point considering how many hip hop artists were influenced by the music of iconic jazz artists and soul singers. After becoming a competent saxophonist on his way through school and eventually forming his Non Projections label, Simon decided it was time to start making his own music under the alias Anenon.
Anenon’s newest album Sagrada is like a passion flower, so intricate and complex in design while never losing its incredible beauty. He uses his musical knowledge to sculpt these boundless soundscapes of immensely textured sounds influenced by jazz, electronica and hip hop. Anenon inhabits his own music, forming himself and his multiplex arrangements into a singular entity. From the opening track “Voice One,” we get the sense of being analyzed by some “all-seeing” orb of consciousness emulated by this dark ambient drone with moments of silence. We feel Anenon’s presence with us as he serenades us with his seductive saxophone improvisation before sending us off into an abyss. Man becomes one with machine with “Lights and Rocks,” taking ambient synth and keys and collocates it with a glitch beat and pulsating bass. We hear hues of jazz rhythm from tight hits on the ride cymbal and saxophone noodling, yet we feel enveloped in the electronic/hip-hop atmosphere of mystical fusion. It’s incredible to hear so many different influences come together into such a cohesive piece of art and music.
Mutated horns and ambient synth imitate a swarm of bees on gust of wind during the transcendental buildup of “Shibaura” before ambient glitch and carefully placed loops build up the beat even more on “Aurora.” The mechanical rhythm combined with luxurious ambience sounds something like industrial trap music. “Lithograph” ends up being one of the shorter but most textured songs on the whole album, with subtle xylophone notes that echo through a light chord alternation while the crackle of vinyl giving it a vintage feel. Other short interludes like “Surface Points” and “Emblem” highlight the jazz influences on the album through wandering saxophone and explorative synthesizers. Anenon’s attention to detail is so precise that it’s hard to imagine any distinct sound or texture was created on accident.
On “Sagrada,” he crafts a clock-like beat by manipulating hollow bass into an rhythmic groove overlapped by looped flute-like synths creating a sense of both thrill and urgency. “The Color White” layers meditative saxophone loops on top of each other as ghostly synths chime and deep bass vibrate producing waves of electro-psychedelia. What we learn from songs like these is that Anenon is not going for the whole “wait for the drop!” culture of electronic music. He’s got a very distinct style that takes elements jazz and electronica then works them into a unique brand of trance music meant to stimulate and tease but never explode. His music is abstract and extremely involved and takes patience and minimal distraction in order to experience this album rather than just hear to it. Sagrada may not appeal to everyone’s taste but it’s impossible to deny that this is an impressive album with a lot to offer if you’re willing to let it penetrate you.