Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society are possibly not a group you are familiar with. But Abrams and his band are certainly seasoned musicians; having worked with the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Joan of Arc, he is no doubt an ever-interesting musician. Abrams and his constantly shifting line up of musicians known as Natural Information Society, create abstract instrumentations around an instrument known as a guimbri. A bass-like instrument used in traditional music of the Gnawa people of Africa. Abrams blends this traditional instrument with a variety of different, more modern styles, from jazz to post-rock. The result is a trippy blend of old and new.
Simultonality is very much a thought-out album. Its songs average around 8 minutes and meander through many different instruments and sounds whilst often retaining a simple meditative loop played by the guimbri. Second track ‘Ophiuchus’ opens with a noisy concoction of different instruments moving into intense drumming over striking synths and crunchy guitars. The song is loose and almost messy but still, retains its structure through the guimbri. This feeling of loose structure is very much carried throughout the album.
Despite the long songs and repetition, this album is certainly not boring. Calming bells on ‘St Cloud’, and the smooth tenor sax from Ari Brown on ‘2128 1/2’ break up the fast-paced nature of other songs on the album. Creating a varied and interesting listening experience. In this sense, it’s hard to pin down Simultonality, but as Abrams himself puts it, it is an album of “pure motion”. The album doesn’t stop, even in its quieter moments, there is still a sense of motion. This constant motion leads to a meditative feel, the repetition and pace forces you to become focused on the music and listen to what’s going on. This is not a coincidence either, one of Abrams aims with this project is to coerce listeners into a meditative centre; something he achieves very well on Simultonality.
Some listeners may struggle with Simultonality’s unusual structure but this is where Abrams pushes the boundaries of his music. You are never quite sure what might come next. A chilled afro-beat inspired harmony, smooth Chicago Jazz or even aspects of krautrock; or indeed a blend of all of the above and more. Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society almost act like a factory production line, each person is doing something different that on its own wouldn’t make sense, but combined creates something interesting and often beautiful. And that’s what Simultonality is at its core. An interesting and beautiful album that is effortlessly enjoyable.By Caylan Hallows