Smashing guitars on stage. Biting the heads off of doves. Mock on-stage electrocutions. Appropriation of fascist imagery. The stand-ins for our residual, repressed and displaced violence have served as ineffective shamen. Twisting and contorting the violence that runs red under the thin veneer of a social contract and the failed promise of upwards mobility that binds together middle-class suburban America into surface-level spiritualism-as-commercialism instead of channeling it into transformative art; our prophets of rage have been shown to be nothing but Nick Cage looking-ass bureaucrats.
In Caress, Redact by Jason Anthony Harris’s project Public Speaking, we are confronted with real violence. From the meaty thud of a naked mic hitting a wooden table, to intermittent blasts of atonal squall of a processed saxophone, to the album’s narrative core: a father’s violence towards his son based on his sexuality, the inherent violence in relationships based on possession. These narratives are sung in croon that belies the violence being exorcised through it.
Comprised from the ground up from samples of manipulated objects: pill bottles, keys jangling, the scrape of mic on wood, these familiar sounds are processed and brought into congregation with lushly composed electro-acoustic arrangements that move from harsh-noise informed blasts to delicate electronic passages. The album starts out with “Blacksite Blues”. A percussive, pulverizing march of processed saxophone accentuating the pregnant pauses between Harris’s breathy croon. That contrast: the hungry and noisy underneath Harris’s soulful voice is at the heart of this record. It sets to underscore the moments of true beauty with narratives of native ugliness of human life: body dysphoria, family instability, fragile masculinity and its need to control physically and psychologically. To caress, and then redact.
Tracks like, “Protect Me From My Own Paws” feature a sophisticated palate of synth arpeggio driven electronic compositions that effortlessly fold in found-sound manipulation with a straightforward pop paradigm. The album’s emotional center-piece, “Shifting Weight”, features extensive vocal manipulation and Harris’s most straight-forward vocal melody and the album’s most obvious and named violence. It is a track that means different things for different people. The intersections of physical violence and sexual identity. Family secrets and call-out culture. Brutally honest survivor perspectives and trigger warnings. “Shifting Weight” wades in those murky waters out of necessity. It is easily one of the most powerful songs of 2016. That can be said about the remainder of the album. An auspicious debut for Floordoor, a label owned and run by Harris, that finds his Public Speaking project refining both the noise and the studied electro-acoustic composition, his voice as narrative agent and pop song structures shining through an admittedly intense record