“Cyberpunk is dead. And we killed it.” VARIEN, 2019
So starts the manifesto of one of America’s most influential, underground, electronic producers. The critically-revered, enigmatic and often elusive Nick Kaelar, aka Varien, emerges from the depths of his studio with the stunning new long-player ‘THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’.
Daring, uncompromising and utterly raw, ‘THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’ is Varien pushing the envelope, even by his standards. Bristling with emotion and fizzing with an obvious rage, the album was part-written at a time when Varien was, in his own words, “in the pits of the deepest depression”, and partly during his journey out of that. The album draws influence from his rediscovery of the worlds of hip-hop, rap and pop, woven together on a background of anarchistic punk sentiment, a composition rich in texture and artifacts.
Speaking about the album, the Florida-based Varien said: “I’m just so physically sick and exhausted of plastic people living plastic lives. We’re better than that; give me the imperfect, the marginalized, the weird. Throw away the shrink wrap and throw yourself into the abyss with me.”
At its essence the album is a celebration of this “imperfect”, exalting the artistic beauty and freedom that lies in surrender to that. From the very start of the album, in titular single ‘THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’, there is a grainy, clipping quality to the production this is far removed from the polished normalcy of much of today’s electronica, carried through as the album begins its descent into darkness. The deep tones and immense vibrations of lead single ‘SOHEAVYSOHOLLOW’ provide a rich backdrop for Tori Letzler’s eerie, ethereal vocal, suspended with deft delicacy over rolling percussion and breaking rhythms. Inspired by Varien’s appreciation for Timbaland’s work, ‘YAKUZA WHOREHOUSE’ is as short as it is startling, just 1 minute 44 seconds long. The even shorter follow-up ‘MATRICULATED’ is an angry burst of frenetic, industrial-electronic energy, the pace unrelenting; the intensity of ‘FIGHT_CLUB’ thrusting the listener further inside the spiralling climax of Varien’s sentiment.
Yet in this world that Varien weaves around us with furious, breakneck pace, like glimmers of light that thread through the dim streets of his soundscape come moments of light and faint peace that juxtapose themselves against the album’s heavier edits. ‘IDONTBELONGHERE’ channels Asian-inspired melodies and instrumental sections; ‘BLESSINGS UNTO THE MACHINE’ is tender and fragile, at its heart a synth-laden, electronic love story; ‘PASCAL’ is hopeful in its melody, elements of Varien’s K-Pop work as Nick Kaelar woven into twitching rhythms and strange, reverberating throat-singing.
Though the listener never quite fully emerges from the dusky twilight of Varien’s ‘THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’, there is a definite sense of catharsis by final track ‘CLAIRE’S SONG’ that perfectly rounds off this latest chapter in Varien’s creative journey. His is a sonic and creative journey that continues to captivate, enthrall and inspire thousands of followers around the world, a flowing tapestry of sound and emotion woven together using fearless imagination and a steadfast refusal to conform to the sanitized parameters of everyday life.
VARIEN ‘THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’:
- THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
- YAKUZA WHOREHOUSE
- ARCHITECT OF DEMISE
- BLESSINGS UNTO THE MACHINE
- CLAIRE’S SONG
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