What So Not – Divide and Conquer
Lately, I’m getting sick of the set of unspoken rules that define a “good” new music release. It’s not like anyone ever sat down and wrote the makeshift Bible on how to put an EP together, but avalanches of reviews that liberally employ meaningless buzz-phrases like “outside of the box” and its antithesis “predictable” might subliminally be telling you a different story. The formulaic has become routine, and “outside of the box” might as well be just another box in and of itself. Because of all these reasons, a project like this seven track EP from Australian electronic music producer Emoh Instead (aka Chris Emerson) is a relief in both its simplicity and the way it cleverly fits together a jigsaw puzzle of unique tracks that immerse the listener directly inside of the creator’s vision.
It’s Emoh’s first solo release without original What So Not collaborator Flume. Immediately from the opening title track it’s clear that you’re steadied by a strong guiding hand that wants to take you somewhere specific, if nameless. A blasting sonic alarm of abrasive synth chords hits you instantly, disarming and jarring until you realize Divide & Conquer has a very deliberate canvas of sound. The following mellow piano interlude Severance provides appropriate contrast reminiscent of falling back to half-sleep after being jolted awake.
The small risks this EP takes are backed with instantaneous payoff, in everything from the arrangement of the songs to the impressive list of collaborators. Once again, I’m reminded that my favorite thing about this release is the way it feels a little experimental around the corners without having to hit the tick-box for what we believe that should sound like. Lone (ft JOY) occupies that same introspective space as the Severance interlude, but thoughtfully expands it from the inside out. Other tracks like Montreal (ft Kimbra) allude to familiarity but step just a small distance away from what you might expect. Divide and Conquer should definitely be listened to from beginning to end, with an open mind, unsure of what unexpected directions it might lead you in.