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Overview

Taken as mood music designed for toxic and illicit late-night situations, House of Balloons -- the debut from Toronto vocalist Abel Tesfaye, released as a free download on his Tumblr blog -- can make for absorptive listening. Joined by producers Doc McKinney and {|Illangelo|}, Zodiac, and Rainer, Tesfaye -- to lift a phrase from {|David Toop|} -- exemplifies the combination of "sugar and poison" that has powered R&B throughout its evolution. Tesfaye's voice is a gentle, bruised, and occasionally gorgeous-sounding instrument that, through sound and words, mixes based belligerence with palpable inner turmoil. "Let me see that ass, look at all this cash" and "I got my heart right here, I got my scars right here," both from "Wicked Games," sum up the angle. The unrelenting stream of dramatically delivered lyrics about getting high and laid can be draining. If Tesfaye didn't punctuate so many thoughts with "fuck" and "motherfuckin'," or struggle with completing couplets -- as he does most glaringly with "I'm on that shit you can't smell, baby/So put down your perfume" -- it wouldn't be a problem. Also, there are instances where it seems likely that Tesfaye does not have Urban Dictionary bookmarked, like when he says he'll "knock your boots off" (an apparent mix of knocking boots and knock your socks off) and brags that he's "always on that okey-dokey" (unless he's proud of being a gullible doormat). Still, Tesfaye and his producers are often ideal foils for one another. The numb, dragged-out melodies and ice-cold drums in "High for This," and the swaggering hook over a chiming lullaby backing in "The Party and the After Party" (one of few instances where Tesfaye views a female as more than a mere conquest) are two of several highlights. House of Balloons is no turning point in a field populated by dozens of elder space cadets and mood architects, from {|Massive Attack|} to {|Spacek|} to {|Sa-Ra|}. As a flawed first step from a young newcomer, however, it's impressive.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628920512
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 03/09/2017
Series: Object Lessons
Pages: 152
Product dimensions: 4.70(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Matthew Battles is Associate Director of the metaLAB and Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, USA. His previous publications include Library: an Unquiet History (2004), The Sovereignties of Invention (2012) and Library Beyond the Book (2014).

Table of Contents

Part One: Feral Trees
The Tree of Heaven
In a Dappled World
A branching Heuristic
Part Two: Garden and Forest
In the Tree Museum
From Ailanthus to Apple
The Charter of the Forests
Part Three: A Dark Abundance
The Tree and/in History
With and Without Us

Notes
Index

Customer Reviews