'Ex-Kasabian', 'previously of Kasabian', 'former Kasabian'; its aggravating reading the music press' stance on musicians when the only point of reference is a past spell. You don't see The Guardian referencing Roy Hodgson as the ex-Malmö FF manager. People are so fixated on history that they forget about the present and the future. We'll keep this short and sweet without coming back to it. Leicestershire’s finest export since Walkers and Gary Lineker started their career with a bang. Without it, they wouldn’t be around today making the less than average mediocre rock music. The psychedelia, electronica of Kasabian's past is down to one man’s inspiration and musical direction. A sort of Syd Barrett caught up in the world of experimentation. It's undoubtedly their best album thanks to the synthesizer work of Chris Karloff, working with Sergio Pizzorno in such a way, that Kasabian quietly informed Oasis that they were irrelevant post-2000. However you view the synthetic genius of Karloff on "I.D." or "Club Foot", throw it out the window. Let the cool air breeze in a follow-up, it's lacking the voice of a chisit, but boasts the company of New York's electronic starlet Nick Forde and guest vocalists from M83, The Duke Spirit, and The Cooper Temple Clause.
This is without a doubt one of the most binding albums of the year. Karloff has smashed together the general aesthetics of rock with elegant and abrasive percussions, with the dark synthesized beats that put Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross at the helm of soundtracks, with a hint of 70s electronic influence from the Germanic age. Throughout Black Onassis' debut album Desensitized, feelings of confusion, unrest, anxiety, and horror occur. There's an innate emotion with Desensitized, the music carries the listener out of their car, bedroom, wherever they are - taking them to the streets of New York City. It's the brash sound of taxi cabs, the smoke rising from the manholes, the fear of what lurks around the corner, the noise of a city that never sleeps. The self-titled first track introduces the listener to what Karloff and Forde have been working on over the past few years. It's the gateway to a hidden planet inside their minds. Co-hosted by the butler Steven Young of The Black Marquee - he takes your coat, settles it down and starts to sing. What you get is the deep, raw sound of electro-industrial - the genre for a Kraftwerk / Skinny Puppy hybrid. Young sings: "This house is made of glass and we are spewing stones," over an eight note distorted synthesizer loop. What follows is astounding, the sheer power of layered synthesizers and reverberated beats - welcome to the world of Black Onassis.
Desensitized's guest vocalists are split up by instrumental segments. At times this break feels integral to the albums purpose, but at the same time, somewhat weak links in a chain of songs. "Humans: Animals" has the electrifying synthesizer loops and contagious beats to go with it, but at four and a half minutes, it sounds drawn out and a little bit needless. The same can be said for "Iso", once you've listened to it, there's no need to return. It's not like these instrumental segments are pinnacle points on Desensitized. Make no mistake about it, the tracks with guest vocalists have been clearly made superior to the splitters. At times they do show signs of ingenuity and importance, like with the catchy "XXL", featuring the heavy percussion of Karloff's past. Then there's the minus trilogy, the better and intriguing instrumentals on Desensitized. "Minus Intermission" has the percussion expected of shoegaze artists, with synthesizers fit for a dark wave duo. "Minus Humans" is lighter, looser, and straight to the point. At 1:41, the instrumental changes from an Aphex Twin-esque ambient track to a defining moment of Desensitized; likewise the finale "Minus Theme" that completes the trilogy and the album. It has a slowed down structures of Black Onassis' common four note synthesizer riff, this time it's shrouded in effects of reverberation and delay to omit a feeling of relief and completion.
Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit lends her voice for the third track "TripB". The Duke Spirit are known for their garage rock sounds inspired by 80s noise pop, clearly a fit for "TripB" and its chaotic instrumentation. Moss' voice has been effected and placed perfectly on Desensitized, Black Onassis haven’t rushed in with singles or key players, it's all about the overall feel and sound, and with "TribB", you get the feeling Black Onassis could make albums just like this for many years to come, in the style of Damon Albarn with Gorillaz, just industrial, and electronic heavy. "TripB" is built from a distorted organ loop and a bludgeoning percussion beat, energetic doesn't come close to describing Moss' vocal and the accompanying instrumental. The same can be said about "Brain". Starting with an electronic hi-hat progression forming in to the centrepiece of Desensitized. Vocals are covered by Ben Gautrey, former member of The Cooper Temple Clause. He delivers a vastly apt vocal to guide the synthesizers and percussion to Desensitized's high point. The percussion is truly fabulous and rivals the synthesizers as the key instrument for Black Onassis. Clearly the percussion needed to have some sort of menacing sound to really get across the abrasiveness of Black Onassis' inspiration. This has all been accomplished by Brad Conroy of The Boggs.
"Innocence Blitz" has a sweet high pitched synthesizer loop, making CALLA front man Aurelio Valle a great suitor to deliver a drone-like vocal that you can find on any CALLA album, especially on their noisy self-titled debut album. The percussion is very similar throughout Desensitized, but that's come to be accepted with the genre Black Onassis are dealing with. Perhaps there's a little too much function and drive, and not enough space. There's no time to breathe on Desensitized, before you can reflect on the previous talent, another synthesizer drone or percussion pounding wreaks havoc. One half of me sees this as an impressive feat to keep the listener in-tune with the music for an extended period of time, the other half kind of leaves me wondering how I’m going to sleep at night after being put through a Throbbing Gristle nightmare.
Before we part into post-apocalyptic analysis, there’s just enough time and room for Morgan Kibby's back album blow "Ether". Like her work with M83, Kibby dives deep in to her own voice finding reason and harmony to soothe the darkness and hard hitting prowess of Black Onassis' instrumentation. "Ether" is the sound of M83 if they dropped the synth pop for synth rock - courteous in its structure, destructive in its nature. A brilliant soft ride before the storm - "ADHD". The penultimate track is reminiscent of Clint Mansell's "High on Life" from Requiem for a Dream. The sound of disorientation and turmoil as the juices start flowing. It's a compelling track, inverted to the closer "Minus Theme".
50 minutes down the line and all the disarray of Karloff's inspiration has been injected in to listeners.. The labyrinth Desensitized is complete, but not without its cataclysmic sound as we return to "Brain", or "TripB" expecting more enthusiasm. It's a never ending cycle, a necklace of tracks - some instrumental, some not. The charming reality of Black Onassis' debut album is the target audience. Desensitized isn't for fans of "Shoot the Runner", or "Fire", it's 2013's essential electronic album that binds together post-industrial, dark ambient, and electro-industrial.