I struggled with how to write about Anthony Naples’ “Abrazo,” the newest release from the NYC dance producer’s upcoming Body Pill LP.
I mean, I like it, for reasons I’ll get to, but writing about music can be a drag.
There are far more interesting thinkers on the subject, but you don’t have to spend more than a hot minute on Pitchfork (or Fader or FACT or Consequence of Sound) to see your standard music-writing options: go metaphorical, go technical, or go reference-heavy.
Fader described Naples’ “Abrazo” as rattling “a club’s speakers even as it knocks your teeth out.” I have no idea what that means, but I am almost 100% sure my insurance won’t cover it.
Pitchfork went semi-technical, describing “Refugio,” the first cut off Body Pill, in terms of its “analog sequences” and “delay trails.”
FACT goes hard on the references with knowing nods to Naples’ Mister Saturday Night club origins.
These are totally legit ways of talking about music. And, strictly speaking, you’re already in the realm of metaphor when you put words to work describing an auditory experience.
The other strategies are, however, not always authentic to my experience of music, so I have to be careful when I deploy them. I’m not a musician or Oliver Sacks, so the technical side of things is usually out. And, references have to be wielded with caution. Pros can lean on them to the point of satire—earning their paychecks via their authoritativeness.
References, if you’re in on them, are a phenomenal shorthand: this band sounds like this band mashed up with this other band if the lead singer were on this label, which is an imprint of this other label—you know, huge in Osaka, but started in an MTA operator’s Bushwick walk-up in late 80s. If you don’t get the barrage of references, the writing can sound braggy and weird and like the most tiresome, High Fidelity-style record store experience ever. (See, there’s a reference now!)
As a middle-aged lady who has never self-identified as a music geek, despite consuming an inordinate amount of culture, I’m left with a relatively atypical set of strategies when writing about music: biography; random associations; an angle in an artists’ own PR material that appeals to me; what I hear when I listen intensely free of any particular knowledge of a label’s reputation or an artist’s past projects; etc.
There’s really no point in my trying to play the Pitchfork game. I can tell you which labels Anthony Naples has been associated with and what he grew up listening to because the internet told me so. That would not, however, tell you why I was drawn to “Abrazo,” and why I think it might be worth your three minutes and twenty-three seconds.
So, what did I find so gosh darn appealing that I felt a need to share it with you here? And, why the long ass digression on the mechanics of music writing first?
I’m having trouble writing about “Abrazo” because there’s not much to write about. It’s a simple track. It is not revelatory. It is no one’s magnum opus. But, as any good chef or writer or creator of anything will tell you, simple is hard. That’s why they have the scrambled egg test for haute cuisine types, and why some writers practice reducing a passage from 500 words to 100 to 20 to 5.
You can hear the constituent parts of “Abrazo” as you listen to it. You can pick out the samples and map their patterns with ease. The recurring strings are the track’s warmth and the reason it might be worth writing about at all.
Naples said that he wanted Body Pill to sound like “those weird florescent light tubes in the subway. They give off this weird hum that you hear only when you’re alone in the station between the trains at night.”
And, here’s where we get metaphorical. The track, as modest as it is, achieves that lonely hum of the city when it sleeps. Given the anthemic, Vegas-style beat-dropping that the phrase “electronic music” brings to a fair share of minds nowadays, I suppose that makes “Abrazo” its own kind of quiet revelation.
Body Pill will be released by Text Records on February 17th.