Person Number (Circle Into Square, 2010)
For: The Notwist, Boy in Static, Magnetic Fields
Byline: Around the world, back in time, and straight into your subconscious—Consulate General’s melodies go just about everywhere.
It’s not likely you’ve heard the name “Consulate General” in your weekly indie-nerd sewing-circles. Yet. You may, however, recognize the name Alexander Chen, who is this relatively new project’s mastermind, also of a certain TOME fav known as Boy in Static, previously gushed upon (and rightfully so) by our wonderful command-itor-in-chief Ryan Hall sometime last year. This guy also has ties to the Anticon crew, made friends with pop-tronic gurus the Notwist, and boasts contributors like Montag and Slowdive on his record. It’s pretty much a bulletproof formula for success. And yes, it’s working—we couldn’t be more proud that he’s offered us this opportunity to share his music with you.
If I were to start describing this record’s ghostly undertones, electronically looped beats, nervous scritches and scratches, and fiddling string twangs, you may get the wrong idea. Yes, these elements all flood Person Number’s diverse patchwork of instruments, but they do so in a way that is light, melodious, and though often twinged with the bitter-sweet sting of melancholy, the Consulate General never treads far into the dark and mysterious. This is, at its core, a pop record top to bottom—uniquely composed, challenging, and thought provoking, sure, but endlessly relatable and accessible. Person Number deftly marries meticulous arrangements of everything from strings to playful keyboards (including glockenspiels, synths, electric and toy pianos) to wind instruments with an aching nostalgia for styles like doo-wop and (quite miraculously) even European classical forms. The cake’s icing is the voice: meek and modest, pitch-perfect, and sounds filtered through AM radio. One of the best musical elements—and this is subtle—is that everything is linearly constructed. Each instrument plays contrapuntally with the mix (even drums play a role in melodic development) as pieces and parts overlap, but with a sense of considerate economy, offering a sparse and varied texture throughout. The record morphs from instrumental tracks like "Liesa Lietzke" (which will undoubtedly have you mouthing the words “Duke of Earl” alongside) to the beautiful, soft balladry of “Have You Seen My Girl,”—a touching lament of a lost pup or a lost love (maybe both... I haven’t decided), to the ingenious tango-feel of “Sweet Solano.” Thankfully, there’s also juuuuust enough “indie pop” here to keep things relevant in 2010.
Admittedly, the first two tracks didn’t strike me as anything too special upon first listen. But as a casual spin slowly turned into a downright obsessive listening regimen, it’s become clear there’s not a single weak track to be found. One of the best s—... Alright, screw it. I’m gonna lay my cards down now: “Half-Day Honeymoon” is the reason God invented the repeat button. The song is composed around a pair of slinky plucked violin patterns that sound almost like a Japanese shamisen (likely because the melodies have an Asian undertone to them) and has a stately tempo that marches forth but steps ever so softly, so sweetly with its flutes and horns and vocal harmonies and well... in three words: So, so nice.
Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a more unique album in the realm of “pop” this year. Come for the pop, stay for the laughs, the sobs, the sighs, and the endearing, earnest, and honest sentiments contained within. You can order this (and please do) from the Consulate General’s website linked below. There’s also an interactive toy on the site that makes me feel like a kitten with a ball of yarn. Just look at those strings vibrate! Woo!