CARES – Who Else Are You
Who Else Are You is an album released by James Beardmore under the moniker of CARES on Collusion Records in November 2016. It’s the first full-length album from this Canadian artist and his third overall release, following fall 2015’s extended-play Come Back When Serious and single Reparations. While these previous releases were firmly rooted in noise and drone music, Who Else Are You sees Beardmore following a slightly different path that features influences from vaporwave, techno, dreampunk, and even industrial music.
Distortion is Beardmore’s game, and he plays it well. “East End Anxiety” features a pseduo-ambient industrial beginning that launches into a wrung-out noise blast that sounds like a digital scream, all underpinned with a mournful synth akin to a line from the Blade Runner soundtrack. The ten-minute “Differ” features a drop after approximately six-and-a-half minutes of slowly building synth tones. It’s not a drop like in dubstep, but like ghost tech drops, where the bass serves to overwhelm the listener in sheer power of sound rather than to initiate dancing. Also of note is “Ooze Descendants”, on which Beardmore fuses Oneohtrix Point Never-esque progressive electronica and carouseling arpeggios with noise devolution.
Who Else Are You opens with “Repent Bonus”, one of the harshest openings to any album vaguely-defined as techno or dreampunk, to the point where I’d call it “power ambient” in a similar tone to Sunn O))), except without the heavy metal instruments. It’s not “dark ambient” – that’s not really the best descriptor at all, in fact, because it isn’t “dark” so much as brooding, intense, and overpowering; like the half-hour darkscape of вовки тіні by вовчі особи. Who Else Are You even has a bit of ECCOJAMS that at first sounds rather out-of-place but ends up kinda nice: “Professional Network” is a classic-style vaporwave jam that either works or it doesn’t, depending on how you like your -wave.
As with some of HKE’s work on I Am Chesumasuta and Transcendent God, Beardmore utilizes distorted vocal loops that sound vaguely feminine, as heard most prominently on the title track and “Differ”. It’s becoming a rather common trend to use such vocal lines, but Beardmore completely avoids them sounding played out or gimmicky, as the entirety of Who Else Are You has a thru-line of corruption, distortion, and unease for which wrung vocals work quite well. The vocal lines waft through their songs in a way that doesn’t quite serve the same purpose as actual lyrics, but merely act as yet another instrument in Beardmore’s set. They’re wordless – or at least, distorted to sound as such – which helps allude to the “power ambient” setting of Who Else Are You by, again, making the focus on the power and intensity of sound instead of what words are being sung.
Who Else Are You will most likely appeal to those fans of recent work on drone and noise labels such as Online Records, Scolex Recordings, and Abject Records – in addition to some of the more experimental releases coming from BLCR and Dream Catalogue. It’s a sparse release, and those for whom sparseness enhances the foreboding qualities of drone and similar types of music will certainly gain something from James Beardmore’s work.
1. Repent Bonus – (5:05)
2. Professional Network – (2:15)
3. Ooze Descendants – (4:42)
4. Living in a Perpetual Present – (00:52)
5. Sleep Edits – (2:31)
6. Who Else Are You – (8:20)
7. East End Anxiety – (3:05)
8. It Was Together – (5:15)
9. Differ – (9:51)