Beauty Pill‘s music is an invitation. In it, life whirs with plunderphonic glee and riffs are funky from the inside out, with rhythms that are equal parts hip-hop and go-go. Conceived, recorded and meticulously tinkered with over the course of eight years, Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are was partly made in front of an audience after member Chad Clark recovered from a viral infection in his heart that nearly killed him. It’s one of the year’s most stunning records, as well as an argument for letting art rest, live and breathe before it’s ready to be known by a listener.
With such a deeply textured group of songs, it was hard to predict how the D.C. band would translate in the NPR Music office. But Beauty Pill didn’t strip down, nor did it remove anything vital; the band thought about and adapted to the space, even if Clark was a little late arriving due to a lost dog on a highway. Jean Cook’s Monome (for lack of a better descriptor, a sampler sequencer) plays a major role in this phase of Beauty Pill; in performance, the samples give levity to the dark and true themes of “Drapetomania!” as Cook bounces and conducts the glowing buttons and Clark defiantly declares, “I want more life, f*****.”
Clark introduces “Exit Without Saving” as “either a Microsoft Word document or a situation where you feel trapped,” pauses to tune, and quickly (even sheepishly) adds, “But you’re not!” It’s an atmospheric piece of work with guitars on infinite delay, Basla Andolsun’s heartbeat-pulse bass line, and a mantra — “You recognize that this is noise, right?” — that takes on its own meaning every time it’s repeated.
- “Afrikaner Barista”
- “Exit Without Saving”
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Walker, Julia Reihs, Colin Marshall; Production Assistant: Kate Drozynski; Photo by Julia Reihs/NPR
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