REVIEW Nandu ‘One Man’s High Is Another Man’s Anxiety’ [Connected]

Rasmus Vincentz Jensen is a firm favourite with Connected listeners. Having released his ‘Another Jam’ EP earlier in 2018 on the label, Nandu, Rasmus’ DJ and producer moniker, decided to delve a little deeper into his own personal life with his latest output. Exploring the nature of duality within life, ‘One Man’s High Is Another Man’s Anxiety’ is an exotic, philosophical and musical discourse that enthusiastically treads the verge between elation and anguish. With the album marking the third multi-track yield from the Copenhagen producer, Jensen’s catalogue is blooming rapidly, and this 8-track LP is as sincere in its joy as it is its suffering. Distinguishing between these shades of life, however, is actually much trickier than one would think, and thus the compilation unbolts an honest dialogue upon the blurred nature of emotions, experiences, and energy through its multi-genred, vocal-heavy approach.

The graciously titled first track, ‘What You Have To Do’ bathes lethargically between veneers of breathy female vocals, whose refrains deal with the overcoming of negative emotions and the manifestation of personal growth. The content of the words are gently introspective; the woman expresses learning responsibility with one’s family, and the discreet, rite-of-passage shift towards maturity. Recurrently, the vocal garbles a little between the instrumental, imploring the listener to carefully pay attention until the underlying message becomes clear again. Subtle layers of percussion pulse out amidst dispersing, emotional chords, and then, like rising up from underwater towards the shore again, the vocals are coherent once more, and an earnest glow of sunshine envelopes the latter half of the track as the track wades into the following song.

Valva’s appearance on ‘Calling’ lends a sullen atmosphere to the feminine energies delivered on the LP. Serenading the rhythm with a sermon on wet weather and apprehension, the track is notably bleaker than its predecessor, as though someone is about to step out into a heavy storm. As Valva’s moody voice reaches an agitated pitch, the drums shake off her words into throaty hums, which heave against the afro-inspired snares and rattles below. The track is thundering and impressive, conjuring the image of a blistering, destructive hurricane which managed to coax a handle of spectators outdoors to marvel at its magnificence.

The titular track ‘One Man’s High Is Another Man’s Anxiety’ – being slightly more passive with its vocals – thus creates a strange impact when put side by side with the second track. Interestingly, the lyrics immediately reference tears, evolving upon the motif of water, but reducing the rainstorm to the humble, communal emotion of human sadness. This is reflected in the production too; it’s more stripped back, but just as stubborn, and the waterworks keep flowing through the offshoots of capricious synths that have streamed into pliable canals. But this only provokes more rumination on the splendour of the storm, and this restlessness gurgles up in the middle of the track as a disjointed chord that rises back up from the simmer once more, and yet again once it interchanges into ‘You Will See’.

Serpentine and slotting tidily into the obscure space between dance-floor workouts and a down-tempo, insidious earworm, it ambles through a plait of oriental melodies, aided by acid-streaked flutters and a coy cowbell that strikes out from the bassline. If a snake-charmer had a soundtrack, ‘You Will See’ would be it, and Apoke’s attitude adds a portentous, persuasive emphasis upon the scaly textures that slink and weave out of its container. There’s a sense of empty promises coming together in a brawl with seduction – and who knows the difference? The track seems to be over swiftly, almost as if it was a distraction, and the listener is promptly led down a forked tongue in the road toward the tranquil deep-house output, ‘While We Wait’.

The fifth track’s bassline is delicate and minimalist, and yet it stands out as the focus point on the song, burrowing into the terrain and making a home there, before sprouting stalks that bud in the form of indiscernible, melancholic exclamations, threaded together by twangs of piano. Beside the self-effacing melody, they all embrace together, and as the track reaches no tangible crescendo – instead shedding and exchanging layers upon layers – it conjures a perfect prototype of less is more. ‘While We Wait’ is yearning for something, but it’s also grateful for the past, and happy to wallow in the memories to come – as a hopeless romantic might do with their daydreams.

Isibane’, however, hops out of the daydream and right into REM sleep. The hypnagogic drumming, heavy-handed and forceful, forges an expedition towards a siren-esque vocal trapped between shifts of synths and intermittent, metallic strikes. Despite this, the track is airy, both light and weighty simultaneously, staggering through the eye of a needle with the blockishness of a thread-tip but with the nonchalance of a gust of wind. The dichotomy rears its head yet again, which undoubtedly Nandu had by now envisioned to be fully established six tracks deep into the album. ‘Isibane’ is another re-assertion of the motif of duality, this theme now having mutated into half a dozen forms and yet still fully-rendered without once having dulled into a digression.

The final two tracks, too, regenerate upon this. ‘When They Call’ is an intimidating musical response to ‘Calling’; meanwhile ‘The Cost Of My Childish Dreams’ inhabits a reminiscence of youth and the destructive penalties of getting lost in the imaginative high that steers us away from the most important sphere of existence, reality. With its masculine chant, ‘When They Call’ is littered with viscous rhythms and a dense, smog-like aura, pluming out from the darkness and deviating away from the regale of the second track. It’s unquestionably the most confrontational production on the album, but makes sense at the penultimate curve due to the region of fresh nightfall it investigates. As ‘The Cost Of My Childish Dreams’ unravels at the denouement, it falls back to a little in pace, but maintains a harshness through the blunt snares and stressed-out chimes. The babble is a little bewildering, and the ending seems abrupt, but this seems intentional, as though Nandu never intended to have a satisfactory, appealing conclusion, instead leaving us feeling a bit hard done by, still craning our ears for a charming encore to tone down the anxiety of the final chapter.

One look back at the album title suggests that at this close, the verge that was being treaded had, in fact, collapsed, and that we all just fell down the rabbit hole into the belly of fear. Attempting to figure out with certainty the conflicting emotions that are being addressed in each track remains increasingly elusive as the LP terminates. But this only speaks for the human psyche’s ability to feel more than one sensation at any given time, highlighting an ornately complex quality to our innate wirings and emotional capabilities. The album artwork gives this route of contemplation a respectful bow itself by the image an expressive, technicoloured peacock – a universal symbol of vibrancy, colour and abundance – split into two sides, psychedelia and monochrome. With the peacock representing such an ostentatious illustration of colour, the lack of it is both stark and vulnerable. As the colour is stripped from its latter half, so too is the idea affirmed that, contained in the richness of life, there also lies a darker side. Such a reference harks back to the Daoist principle of yin and yang – of the necessity and self-manifestation of opposites – all contributing to the wildness of life, with its vivacious highs and protracted lows.

To address the idea that a surplus of energy – the high – can so easily tip over into a wealth of darkness, is gutsy for Nandu to examine, as he has already been frank in how his personal life has transmuted into a new phase through the conception of his very own family. To dance upon the cusp of these conflicting yet conjugal feelings, is to be alive, and there is a subjectivity in what we might find motivates us versus what another might find distressing. The gamble between falling off the threshold or teetering for a little while longer on the edge is what Nandu is perhaps most inspired by during this LP, and this could substantiate the eccentricity of some of the tracks; in particular, ‘Calling’, ‘You Will See’ and ‘When They Call’ seem to be an investigation of when darkness is as charming as the light. However, we come to realise by the end of the album that this duality is, in fact, a diplomatic conjoining, as though the anxiety and the high are clutching hands with each other, striding through life events that Nandu has himself found peculiar synchronicity within. Within the theory of the Dao, there also lies the philosophy that what seems chaotic at close proximity, is actually coherence from far away, and no truer does this seem correct than with music and this album, where the notes on their own may have an uneasy discord, but when put together as a totality, become melodious, and even enthralling.

So how does one avoid the anxiety that so often saunters into attention during life’s most colourful highs? The answer, it seems, lies in letting go. Paradoxically, acceptance reveals evasion, as though when one stops pushing back up against the demons, they simply fall away. It’s in music that one can practice this relinquishing of expectation too, as when you listen to compositions, it’s a common phenomenon that the body relaxes, accepts, and then admires the chaos. And once you’re liberated from the neurosis and obsessive attention to detail of music – and life – you might realise it’s all a lot more harmonious than you first thought.

Nandu’s ‘One Man’s High Is Another Man’s Anxiety’ was released on the 26th October 2018 on Connected.

Review by Emily Rose Howard