Lush and dense electronic soundscaping from Ohio resident Incentive tackles personal trauma and depression. If an individual’s soul could be writ large in music then Incentive has achieved this with his album Happiness. Every state of being has seemingly been encapsulated in this seven track cathartic exercise wrapped up in the heady blanket of layered and atmospheric electronics.
Bookended by eleven minute epic pieces, the album moves through various transitional states; opening with 45 on the Beach, a piece of jagged ambience and whirling textures, Happiness could be an uneasy and challenging listen, however, Incentive’s skill with melody and pace actually draws the listener in with interesting shifting patterns of sound. There’s the harsh white noise of Trauma, Anxiety & Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms, the warm Orbital-esque melodicism of agonal and the shimmering walls of shoegaze static cut through lowdose that demonstrates a palette of ideas and concepts.
Time Flows Beyond You is spookier and more chillingly ambient. It is a collage of sinister clashes and metallic sounds; think Aphex Twin in one of his more ambient and abstract phases.
The title track, Happiness is perhaps the most interesting of the album. Dark and industrial, there are shades of mid 80s Skinny Puppy in the melding of reverb-heavy beats and abrasive electronics.
Closing out with the long and epic “I look to the distance, and see the end of the world”, Happiness is an essential album for those who seek experimental and challenging electronic music.
Much of this album resembles early Tangerine Dream, back when they experimented with modular synthesis and abstract inventiveness; all spacey electronics and pulsing sine waves. There’s so much to unwrap here that one listen does not do it justice. Happiness is as much an investment from the listener as it is the composer. Incentive has literally unfurled his inner-self over seven tracks and it almost feels like eavesdropping at times, such is the personal nature of what he has produced.
The many shifting phases makes it possible to uncover a little more with each listen, as if the secrets, wrapped up in the layers of dense and textured electronics, are there to be uncovered through painstaking, archaeological investigation. Do not rush this album, float within its ambience, push through the snarling grey of harsh noise and vibrate to the meditative pulses of its percussive brilliance.
An essential addition to any serious consumer of post-industrial, harsh noise and experimental music.
Happiness is out now on Incentive’s own Circle With A Dot imprint. CD version is also available via Wormhole World.