Usually, if an electronic musician's laptop craps out, he's fucked. But for Brian Allen Simon, who performs under the name Anenon, it just means one thing: Break out the saxophone and go nuts.
“It was honestly one of the most liberating performances I've done,” Simon says of his recent show at Home Room in Silver Lake, where a laptop failure forced him to scrap his experimental ambient set in favor of a 20-minute free-form sax solo. “I really went for it, frustration turning into passion, in a way.”
Both onstage and in the studio, the sax is the 28-year-old Hollywood native's secret weapon, although he normally deploys it in stealthier ways than he did at this particular skronk session. “It's just a sound tool,” he says of the instrument, which he picked up while studying music history and theory at UCLA. “I don't have to be ripping some solos. … It's more about the tone or the feel.”
Barring more technical difficulties, don't expect any Coltrane-like sheets of sound when Anenon rolls into Low End Theory tonight. Whatever sax you hear is more likely to be run through a barrage of effects until it sounds like the otherworldly sighs and alien mating calls that punctuate such tracks as “The Sea and the Stars,” a highlight on Anenon's debut album, Inner Hue, out May 1 on his own Non Projects label.
“For me, it's almost like a challenge to play Low End Theory,” Simon says over a cappuccino at Antigua Bread in Highland Park, near his studio-apartment-label HQ, which he calls 6210. His sound, he admits, doesn't necessarily fit with Low End's rep as ground zero for L.A.'s bass-loving beat scene.
“That's not to say that my stuff doesn't have heavy bass,” he quickly adds. “It's funny; someone had mentioned to me, 'Oh, I think your stuff's really mellow.' And I'm, like, 'What volume are you listening to it at?' If you put my stuff on a system that has full frequency range, you're gonna hear the whole spectrum.”
He's right: Crank up nearly any track on Inner Hue — or even Acquiescence, the more introspective EP he finished recording last winter after a breakup — and you'll hear plenty of floor-shaking bass underpinning the gorgeous piano, Fender Rhodes and synth melodies that are the most immediate elements of Anenon's music. You'll also hear what sets him apart from his electronic contemporaries, even more than his occasional use of sax: a sense of space and restraint, qualities lacking in too much laptop-driven music.
“You could say the end product of the album is that it's electronic music,” Simon says, “but it has this other feel to it that I feel is absent from a lot of electronic music. This vintage quality and this very human feeling to it.”
It's that throwback, organic quality that makes Inner Hue such a standout release — and which should win over even the bass-hungry crowd at Low End Theory. So long as there are no 20-minute sax solos.
Anenon performs at Low End Theory tonight.