» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Adage of Known
Ghostly International

Rating: 8.8/10 ?

April 17, 2008
These days there is little blame to be placed with anyone who thinks twice before rallying behind electronics in their pop music. Whirring and bleeping synthetic sounds have opened up a myriad of avenues for creativity and expression, sure, but, if I'm allowed to source Spider-Man for a philosophical principle and still retain some fragment of dignity, I think it safe to say that we're all well aware of how much responsibility comes with that kind of power. Now, more than ever, it seems like electronics are being used as a crutch to prop up songs that would otherwise collapse upon their thin devices. Can you imagine T-Pain being this successful without the invention of the vocoder? Would "Piece of Me" be a single if the producers worked without an Autotune? Computers have to be used as an instrument, a palette tool, rather than as a mascara or a concealor, and in this respect Brooklyn's Joey Sims is an artist with a true understanding of technology's application.

According to his patrons at Ghostly International, who are releasing this digital-only debut, Sims, professionally known as JDSY, is a self-taught musician, and by my third listen through Adage of Known it became clear that the album serves as an oasis for its creator. If the majority of pop music uses computers as a way to maximize appeal with a lick or two of sheen on a track destined for the dance floor, JDSY uses his laptop to write songs that hold their meaning solely on an individual basis, without concern for any audience but the one between the headphones. The blips and echoes of his debut possess a blend of confidence and wonder, as if they had been pieced together in awe of knowing that if you press one button, followed by another button, what results can be both organic and moving.

In this way, Adage of Known falls under the same family tree as Björk's Homogenic, but rather than being a portrait of someone ruined by a relationship in the process of recoiling to square one again, JDSY's take feels like a work going in the opposite direction. Sims has crafted songs as a voice in isolation searching for a way to communicate, a viewer observing busy city streets from a window in a ten-story building. "I'm just a reaper, heavenly body, so lone," Sims states in "Drifter," employing a minimalist structure in his lyrics much to the same degree as Björk; allowing simple, poetic phrases to resuscitate specific events in the life of the listener that makes the record at once personal and also universal. "Else2," the album's opening track, suggests that Adage of Known's protagonist is almost afraid of achieving intimacy, viewing it as a theft of identity and a waste of youth:

Steal me in vain
You'll take my whole name
Steal on a dime
You'll take all my time

If Adage of Known exists in its own guarded universe, that universe at least runs parallel to Kafka's Metamorphosis. In that literary touchstone, our hero wakes up one morning and notices that he has become a giant insect, finding it almost physically impossible to get off of his back and get out of his bed; unable to convey to his family the sentiments that came naturally to him for his entire life. Adage of Known navigates the same framework, illustrating the moment in your life when you realized that you were the only person who understood you. Even the song titles ("The Asp," "The Bug"), when coupled with Sims' lyrics ("I'm all up in a cage/ My mind's in the same place/ I been up in a cage/ But my mind's in the same place") accumulate a cohesion that is remarkable whether or not it was unintentional.

Yet, despite these comparison to famously dark compositions, Adage of Known is not a depressing record. In fact, if anything, it's a comforting record; a consolation that yes, life is just flat out scary sometimes, but everyone is here experiencing its chaotic isolation with you. JDSY touches a nerve with this album, but instead of irritating and enflaming it, he caresses it. Adage of Known is successful because Sims trusts his instincts enough to push concerns over popular reception to the back burner, trusting that art created with honesty and integrity and confidence will be respected. Within a genre of music that quite often deserves more than its current share of eye liner and lip gloss, Adage of Known is always subtle, often simple, and frequently beautiful. Rather than just drooling dance floor electronics onto pop songs, the album was crafted with concern for an audience under headphones, and in fact doesn't take kindly to strangers.

Reviewed by Dave Toropov
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.

See other reviews by Dave Toropov



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