by Conor Fynes
There’s a miserable effect that’s come with nurturing an obsession with music over the long term. After years of soaking up as much different music as I can find, I almost never find myself truly shocked by something new—at least, not anymore. I still love hearing fresh music in every other way—possibly now more than ever—but I can’t think of more than a few times in recent years where I heard something that fell well outside of my understanding; even an album that could push me to reconsider my feelings on life, or at least the given genre. They do exist, but as I get older, it feels like the threshold to feel that way is getting stricter.
It’s frustrating because I can remember several periods in my childhood and teen years where it felt like these life-changing music discoveries were being made weekly. It’s safe to say most of you currently reading some obscure review on the internet share this obsession with music; I’d also contend almost all experienced that same golden age of discovery early on too. Getting that childlike novelty isn’t so simple as switching genres either; there are certain streams of music that will naturally appeal to the essence of a person. Imagine the unironic reaction of an open-minded death metal fan listening to an hour of polka. If you want a worse scenario, try switching the genres around.
I have resigned myself to knowing I’ll never experience the same concentration of musical ecstasies I had taken for granted as a teenager. God damn, though, if I don’t miss that feeling of being young and new to everything. I think now’s a good point to thank Igorrr for being one of those mind-blowing discoveries I’ve experienced more recently. I can still remember the night in 2014 listening to Nostril and Hallelujah back-to-back and practically stopping work just to keep up with it. Granted I already knew some breakcore at the time via Venetian Snares, and I’d even heard Gautier Serre‘s glitchy metal project Whourkr years before that. But Igorrr was different. The expected hyperwarp pacing of breakcore was being used as a glue between baroque classical, black metal, and every avant-garde trick in between. These were sounds I thought myself intimately familiar with, and here they were being chopped, rewired, and synchronized all at once, and all with the sort of abstract perfection that could cave my head in on itself.
There are a few similar avant-garders to Igorrr (Pryapisme being one of them), but none have come so close to the “stream-of-consciousness” inventiveness. If there was any trophy yet unclaimed in my mind that Igorrr earned to wow me, they’re the first case where the Zappa-esque approach of zany, tongue-in-cheek randomness in avant-garde music really worked for me. Looking back to Serre sampling an angry vacuum or the absurd and infamous ‘chicken solo’, Hallelujah wasn’t just fucking hilarious, it offered up sounds and an experience that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Add to that the pomp and arrogance of fully-fleshed baroque classical music, and I’m not surprised that Igorrr grasped beyond my initial understanding.
Hallelujah ended up as one of my most-listened-to records of the current decade; it’s the album I’ve kept in mind whenever searching for that next game-changer. Come Savage Sinusoid in 2017, and I’m wondering if my expectations and experience of Igorrr in the past kept it from hitting as hard. Rest assured Igorrr has lost no adventure; the hyperweird and controlled chaos is still as sharp and as transgressive as ever. I still enjoyed Savage Sinusoid a lot because of this, but the disappointment has made me reconsider why Hallelujah shocked me so much in the first place. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about—maybe you can tell.
Serre’s chicken experiments aside, I still see the avant-garde randomness on Savage Sinusoid as candy-coated window dressing. It’s really exciting on the surface, but it tends to lack enough emotional resonance to keep me engaged and coming back. The brilliant move on Hallelujah was that this zany grab bag was tied together with the baroque classical theme. You could categorize this project as breakcore, but the baroque conventions offered the darkly emotional through-line. Perhaps it was arrogance, but that baroque lifeblood made a transgressive genre-mash feel highbrow. The emphasis was shifted away from the silliness. Even the random jokes felt strangely deep for the way they struck counterpoint with 500 years of European musical tradition.
With Savage Sinusoid, the lunatics have taken over the asylum. All of the ingredients and sounds I loved are back, but the balance is different. Where metal worked as a vulgar contrast to the highbrow, here it’s taken the spot of lifeblood. There are songs like ‘Opus Brain’ and ‘Spaghetti Forever’ that nail the balance between seriousness and levity. Contrast that with the obnoxious chugging on ‘Viande’ or the never-not-lame decision to mix metal and brostep together, as if that cursed Korn and Skrillex collaboration somehow infiltrated its way onto my playlist. I wouldn’t say the chopped screams and metal toss-ins were always graceful on past albums, but they usually served a contrast. Metal’s always been the least compelling part of Igorrr, and I don’t think it was a strong move to give it the limelight.
I do enjoy Savage Sinusoid in any case; when it’s good, it’s really good. The emotional hooks and tech wizardry are still here as ever, but the obnoxious undercurrents were really turned up on this one. After this many albums, there’s definitely starting to be a pattern in which Igorrr approaches this zany madness. Much like Monty Python, engaging with it for long enough shows the absurdity unfold in a similar manner. For Igorrr, it’s always been a snap between extreme contrasts. That Savage Sinusoid doesn’t match its silliness with an appropriate emotional counterpoint holds it from getting under the skin, but your mileage may vary.
At the very least, hearing the new Igorrr made me realize what it really was that hooked me in so much about this project in the first place. It was never the weirdness itself that affected me so much. All along, it’s boiled down to the feeling the music could invoke in me. Everything else was just a means to that end, and the same is true for anything else that’s ever made me feel young again.