isomonstrosity & Empress Of share “Take Me Back“
The debut LP from isomonstrosity, the new project helmed by producer Johan Lenox (Travis Scott, Kanye West, Lil Nas X), Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid and conductor/computer engineer Yuga Cohler is due out on Brassland on November 18.
Conceived of as a pandemic symphony that incorporates elements of rap and avant-pop, it was inspired, in part, by the mood and the constraints of the Covid-19 quarantines of 2020-21, recorded separately in pieces, with every musician working in isolation. The trio’s goal was to make a vocal chamber music album using the same process as a contemporary rap album, assembling contributions from a wide array of artists – Danny Brown and 645AR, also Kacy Hill, Danny L Harle, Empress Of, Vic Mensa, Tommy Genesis and Zacari – and then reorganizing them endlessly into a final work. They began by commissioning excerpts from established new music composers – Bryce Dessner, Marcos Balter, Nina C Young, Wang Lu, Carlos Simon and themselves – which were then recorded one track at a time by the International Contemporary Ensemble before chopping and changing contributions from the list of featured artists.
In September, the group announced the record with a single called “Careful What You Wish For” that features Danny Brown and 645AR, and was met with an enthusiastic response, prompting FADER to describe isomonstrosity’s debut as “quite possibly the platonic ideal of a pandemic album.” The group have subsequently shared tracks featuring Vic Mensa, Kacy Hill and Zacari, and today, isomonstrosity are sharing a final single from the record, a track entitled “Take Me Back” that features Empress Of.
Built around a piano excerpt from The National‘s Bryce Dessner, the track provides an example of isomonstrosity’s ability to bridge seemingly vast musical gaps via their unique creative process. An engaging exhibition of some virtuosic creative minds solving complex problems while working through a series of self-imposed constraints.
“This track had a long journey,” Reid explains. “At first we had Empress Of’s vocal line over a pop track, but I felt like it needed something less conspicuous to evoke the mood we were going for. After a few conversations, we threw the vocal line over Bryce Dessner’s hypnotic piano line, and we were immediately excited about this direction.“
“The piano, originally recorded live by ICE Ensemble and then heavily manipulated, has an uncanny feeling” adds Lenox, who has a prior working relationship with Empress Of having produced her recent Save Me EP. “Being both too low and too fast to have ever been played this way by a real person on a real piano.“
“We made the song through text and email, typical of 2020,” says Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of). “I was starving to go out and be surrounded by people and I feel like you can hear that energy on this piece of music. It’s an unconventional song for an unconventional time in all our lives.”
“At the very start of the pandemic, I had my first sustained break in travel and touring in over 15 years,” adds Bryce Dessner. “The request from my friends Johan and Ellen to write music, any music, which would be collaged into this larger isomonstrosity project gave me something to meditate on in that moment of quiet. I wrote several simple little pieces including this piano excerpt. Through processing they’ve transformed it into something surprising and beautiful to hear the amazing Empress Of on the track.”
2. shining (ft. Tommy Genesis)
4. too quiet
5. watch it burn (ft. Zacari)
6. i hope she is sleeping well (ft. Danny L Harle)
7. take me back (ft. Empress Of)
8. break glass
9. careful what you wish for (ft. Danny Brown, 645AR & Johan Lenox)
10. wake up (ft. Vic Mensa)
11. i used to (ft. Kacy Hill)
12. losing my mind