2 a.m. Wakeup Call
tweaker's (herein referred to as Chris Vrenna) 2001 release, The Attraction to All Things Uncertain, was Vrenna's dabble in Autechre-like glitch pop and IDM while still attempting to exercise some of the rock and industrial heritage he created while drumming for Nine Inch Nails. though the goal was somewhat of a concept album--the cover art sported Joe Sorren's Elliot's Attraction To All Things Uncertain--it only achieved that goal proximately. you felt Vrenna clawing his way towards something new, maybe even revolutionary, but as an electronica tyro it was sometimes a hit-or-miss affair ('Microsize Boy' being a queer end to it all). 3 years after the auspicious debut, Vrenna returned with 2 a.m. wakeup call, paying only modest tribute to the element of multi-genre hybrid evidenced on TATUTU. his development, though expected, far surpassed any inklings we may have had. 2 a.m. wakeup call outshines its predecessor in all facets, firmly establishing Vrenna as an artist dealing with a rarefied, difficult craft.
his new effort marks the return of David Sylvian (Japan) and Will Oldham (Palace Music) and newcomers Mellowdrone, Nick Young (A.I.), Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen), Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), and the incorrigible and ever-puissant Robert Smith of The Cure. most of them are notable for being unappreciated members of an ancillary stage of music, but combined with Vrenna's uncanny growth between a short span of two albums the results are fantastic. one should immediately enter 2 a.m. wakeup call aware of the telos: dreams. Vrenna approached the vocalists and guest musicians with a simple yet expansive proposition: write about your dreams. by doing this he cajoled the musicians into using a reference point, one that would suit Vrenna's own.
dispatched are the more acute electronica influences from the previous album and he seems to have entirely exorcised his industrial propensities. 'Ruby,' featuring Will Oldham, is comprised of faint vocals and demure guitar plucks before being broken by hefty, enduring riffs. 'Truth Is,' featuring Robert Smith, is Vrenna's official and seminal foray into synth-pop, effectively breaking with pedigree. the album's apex is certainly 'It's Happening Again' featuring Leithauser. though his part is composed of only a couple of lines, Vrenna's music buoys them and thwarts any ensuing repetition. the rest plays like a theatric denouement except for 'Sleepwalking Awake' and 'Movement of Fear,' but even those aren't as truculent as the Leithauser piece. Johnny Marr's work on 'The House I Grew Up In' is sublime and simple, pulsating with the same rise and fall of an orchestral piece. the final track, 'Crude Sunlight,' featuring Jennifer Charles, is arguably the best. i framed this album as Vrenna putting a past to rest and nowhere is it more exemplified than the last song, a whopper of a closer beginning with a faint piano and beat only to end with an ascension of strings.
Vrenna has made an album of tremendous complexity, humanity, and breadth. his work as a musician and producer is truly, woefully unappreciated. 2 a.m. wakeup call is a moving homage to the enigmatic and sometimes haunting nature of dreams, and how our morbid curiosity of them is only bested by how they are imagined. the album cover displays a better articulation of the entire work, with the typewriter from his last album submerged in swamp water, and the beast of dreams coming to replace it.
Release date: April 20, 2004
Label: Reincarnate Music
Rating: 10.0 / 10
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