By the end of beginning of 1991, alternative rock finally broke through to the mainstream. It hit its glass ceiling somewhere around the end of 1994, with the following year ushering in a new era of streamlined alternative. Throughout the next three years, the returns diminished considerably in which the mainstream was pretty much straight-up uninterested in alternative culture in 1999.
Right now we are in the late 1994/early 1995 of indie R&B, a movement that you can say was spearheaded by the Weeknd and Frank Ocean who both had debut mixtapes that dropped in the first quarter of 2011. Nostalgia, Ultra and House of Balloons served as the Bleach and Temple of the Dog, and now Channel Orange and Kiss Land stand as the Nevermind and Ten. Now that we’re in the saturation year, we have people like SOHN and Scholomo gladly stepping in to fill the roles of Stone Temple Pilots and Bush.
And where does that leave a duo like Pony Bwoy, the new project by rap-singer Jeremy Nutzman and producer Hunter Morley? Well luckily for them, 1995 wasn’t the end game, and neither is 2015. There was still water being drawn from the well, even it bear some resemblance to what everyone else had been drinking for a couple years. när-kə, the group’s first full-length features tracks built on oozing trip-hop beats with soulful but often warped vocal parts. As much as it fits into the indie R&B jacket, it’s weirder than many of its contemporaries, with many of songs not even having a clear-cut, discernable melody. Many of the vocals come in hushed blurts pouring out of soft keyboards and ticking bips bleats. The manipulated sounds actually have more in common with Purity Ring anything OVO or OFWGKTA-affiliated. The touchstones come from triphop forbearers such as Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead, with dark atmoshpheres cast over dusty drums. There’s even a little Burial in there, like on “Inanimate, Baby” and “aafter dark” which borrow the same ghostly minimalism, all sounding as if recorded exclusively on rainy days.
när-kə is not a record looking to stack against the Channel Oranges and the House of Balloonses of the world, but the feeling of having heard this kind of thing for some time can’t help but come into play. Regardless, it’s a serviceable collection of tracks that play off the vibes of meditation and a protected, indoor environment. The manipulation of the sound that Morley creates and the way Nutzman plays off it is oddly soothing even though the synthesis can at times can give off a creepy feeling. As of right now, we currently have four more years until the 2010s version of nu-metal destroys PBR&B for good, so let’s enjoy this while we still can.