Less than a year after his debut album as Avvenir, Chicago musician Joel Ebner returns with Natural Language. His fifth solo record since 2014 when including his releases as City States, Contretemps, and Modal Voices, Ebner's newest outing as Avvenir deepens his exploration of experimental techno with a darker and more cohesive vision than Glyphs, expanding on a body of work that has already resulted in praise via Popmatters, Impose, and CMJ.
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While Natural Language's primary influence still resides in the early albums of Autechre and Aphex Twin, this new collection of songs owes an enormous debt to industrial music—especially Cabaret Voltaire, Nine Inch Nails, and Coil—which dominated Ebner's musical interests as a teenager. It also shows him expanding his repertoire as a producer, incorporating nods to acid house ("Turing"), orchestral music ("Humanism"), and noise ("Ipsum"). Though the melodies of Natural Language are starker, set against harder beats than on Glyphs, Ebner's deftness for songcraft still shows; tracks like "Qua" and "Bontecou" continue to demonstrate Ebner's ability to synthesize the tunefulness of pop music with experimental techno, even as those songs inch toward their structural and rhythmic breaking points.
As the second album in a trio of LPs—the third is slated for 2017—Natural Language expands upon the themes of Glyphs. The record's title—a simultaneous nod to Cabaret Voltaire's penultimate release, International Language, as well as a field of computer science called natural language processing—extends Glyphs' exploration of written communication to include the spoken word, while also looking at the ways in which technological proliferation informs our everyday lives.