Described by Jason Lindner as a mixture of "futuristic sounds at the crossroads of analog synth-pop, modern RnB and apocalyptic new wave,” The Buffering Cocoon's music, Now Vs Nows's second album, can’t be catagorized.
I went to a Banksy exhibition in Brussels a few weeks ago. There was an updated unused warehouse, local intelligentsia, and of course the works of the British anarchist artist. But what impressed me the most was the music spilling out of the speakers, louder than usual for this kind of exhibition. The music in question, “Musical Reflections of the Art of Banksy” compiled by Fahir Atakoglu, was in line with the Bristol artist’s artistic conception and political commitment.
In many ways, the new Now vs Now album could fulfill a similar function. The group was founded on the concepts of evolution, live performance, and electronic music. This is all the more striking because this artistic orientation is a clear bias. Behind the group’s enigmatic name is an initiative by American pianist Jason Lindner. We have been able to experience this project since 2014 with an eponymous album on which Mark Guiliana and Panagiotis Andreou were in charge of the rhythm section. At the time, the mixed sounds were articulated around a jazz/soul mold embellished with Indian music and hip hop. On The Buffering Cocoon, the project’s second album, electronics play a prominent role, both in the electrified sounds of the keyboards and bass and in the jerky rhythms of Justin Tyson, who replaced Mark Guiliana on drums.
We shouldn’t see intellectualist intent in Jason Lindner’s original approach. The title of the album is a tribute to a late friend who used to compare music to a buffering cocoon, and one of the leading titles, “Silkworm Society,” was developed during an informal philosophy session during a tour. But ideas have their own development, and Jason confided his fascination for the end of the biological kingdom during a live performance at the Manhattan Center, as well as the advent of mass genetic modification. This notion of cocoon represents the different layers that represent our reality, beyond the physical border and at the borders of the virtual. But even more so, it is the need to hide in a personal space, away from external nuisances. So, what is the soundtrack of this change of era like?
Described by Jason Lindner as a mixture of “futuristic sounds at the crossroads of analog synth-pop, modern RnB and apocalyptic new wave,” The Buffering Cocoon‘s music can’t be catagorized. A glance at the names of the songs is enough to discern the album’s surrealist environment. While titles like “Cloud Fishing” and “Silkworm Society” evoke a certain serenity, the universe of “Glimmer”, “Dichotomy,” and “400 PPM” refers to a rather dark imagination, from Ghost in the Shell to Blade Runner. There is always ambivalence in the referentials used here. “Pergamos” for example is rooted in Greek mythology, with a nod to the Pergamos of Homer’s work, Achilles’s grandson, as well as the Mediterranean scales used. At the same time, the distortion of the bass and keyboards refers to something much more contemporary if not futuristic, perhaps Trojans (the computer viruses).
“Buffering” is also used in an ambivalent way throughout the album. In addition to this protective aspect of the human cocoon, the buffer zone is also used in computing for information transfer. We have all dealt with the problem of buffering when playing an online video. With different loading stages during the listening (“Buffering 3%,” then “Buffering 43%”), the album ends on “Buffering Failed, Restart,” so without real resolution. It is difficult to interpret this fatalism, but we can guess a desire to view music as unfinished, a cyclical creation destined to metamorphose like the worm and the chrysalis.
This set forces curiosity, and of all the criticisms that the album has received, it isn’t surprising to find some of them on sites dedicated to rock. Certainly, Jason Lindner was not on his first attempt after accompanying David Bowie on his last album (Blackstar in 2016). With his myriad of characters and a filmography focused on fiction and social skepticism, the British dandy already had a skeptical view of his time. It’s only fitting.
Now Vs Now, The Buffering Cocoon (Jazzland Recordings)