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Age of Transparency marks the second step in a trilogy exploring the difficulty of making personal connections in an impersonal time. “The title comes from marketing jargon,” Ashin explains.“It’s a term for the place we’re in now, where truth and transparency are just ways to sell things and honesty is its own kind of performance.”
Coming from an artist who pushes his voice and body to their breaking points, it might seem like a strange admission. But for Ashin, close is as close as you can get.“Transparency is an impossibility,” he says. “It’s more about trying to be transparent and falling on your face in the process.”
In an effort to explore the idea, Ashin started sessions for the album with a jazz combo at midtown Manhattan’s Avatar Studios. “I’ve been listening to jazz since I was a kid and wanted to experiment with it,” he says. “For me, it taps into this comforting and antiquated image of the truth.”
He later took the recordings to his home studio and tore them apart. “I kept flipping them and messing with them,” he says—a process you can hear on Transparency’s title track, which recalls the loose, incantatory vibe of late-60s Pharoah Sanders records before settling into Ashin’s tweaked take on R&B. “The players are there to give you an impression of transparency,” he says, “but they’re constantly being disrupted.”
Elsewhere, as on “World War Pt. 2” and “Panic Room,” Ashin pushes the vocabulary of soul to its horizons, incorporating choral music, electronic composition and the kinds of disfiguring production techniques that made Anxiety one of the most unusual albums of 2013. Age of Transparency was self-produced in a small room overlooking a quiet street in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and mixed by Tony Maserati, who has also worked with Beyoncé, Notorious B.I.G. and Lady Gaga.
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