Tanner Babcock

  1. Opinions
  2. Music Reviews

Henry Knollenberg

Return to Music ReviewsAbout These ReviewsRandom Music Page

Year Title Rating
2013 Ice Cream Feelings and a Small Buzz 3/10
2014 Vast 4/10
2014 Successful Portraits 4.5/10
2014 Hit the Panic 6.5/10
2014 Future Death Nostalgia 7/10
2014 VHS Classic 7/10
2014 NoMy 7/10
2014 NoMy.5 5/10
2014 Editing Mark 6/10
2014 Music for My 6.5/10
2014 artist[669]end 5/10
2014 Henry Knollenberg & Newt Grundy - NoMy.Hard 5.5/10
2015 Summer 2012 7/10
2015 The Neptune Social Animation: Part 1 5.5/10
2015 The Neptune Social Animation Part 2 7.5/10
2015 Culture Chester - Real Men Don't Rape rape
2015 : 5.5/10
2015 Prelude to Moon 4/10
2015 Moon 4/10
2015 NoMy. 6/10
2015 Spidercake - Spidercake 7.5/10
2015 Moon Jazz Vol. 2 (669) 5/10
2015 Most of Your Friends Are Lame Anyways 7/10
2015 Horses Aren't Lightbulbs 6/10
2016 Aqaba of My 6/10
2016 Uranian Outpost // The Odyssey of Johnny Cool // SUBJECT TITLE 681-657 7.5/10
2017 A Litany [of] Ag[(ri)cultural] Gliomas 7.5/10
2017 Spidercake - Spidercake II 8/10
2018 Culture Chester - Outer Baseball too much Adnan
2018 8[-2]/18[/3]/18[/2] 7/10
2019 Neptune IV 8/10

Review last updated: January 4, 2019

Henry Knollenberg has been my good friend of 4 or 5 years. We played in Culture Chester together with the infamous Newt Grundy, and he has made several appearances on my albums over the years. He was also, along with David Galloway and Grundy, in a trio of creative power called Spidercake, from 2012 to 2013.

Uranian Outpost // The Odyssey of Johnny Cool // SUBJECT TITLE 657-681

I know Knollenberg himself much prefers his latest full-length, A Litany [of] Ag[(ri)cultural] Gliomas to the album that preceded it (you're kind of a shitty artist if you don't think your most recent work is your best one), but I hope to show him and the world why Uranian Outpost is my favorite of his, and one of my favorite albums ever. One of the best, most consistent, and most remarkable parts of Henry's music is his intelligent, and extremely subtle, but often explicit, use of narrative, story, plot, characters, and setting, with exceptional detail to environment and landscape. His artistic milestone of 2015 The Neptune Social Animation Part 2 is almost more of a literary work than a musical one - it is a concept album whose narrative is explicitly stated in the second person by an ominous robot voice, the front-end interface of some sort of computer or highly-intelligent training program. He dazzled his friends and bandmates with the stunning social commentary (about healthcare in the U.S., mental health, patronizing and unhelpful service from healthcare professionals) and desolate feelings of depression of hopelessness, contributing to an experience that is richly personal but also disturbingly alienating. It really is a dystopian adventure whose power of science fiction propels it into dark recesses of consciousness.

Throughout Henry Knollenberg's career, he has published upwards of 20 different albums (and 6 or 7 EPs), most of which were all available online at once. The majority of these have been long abandoned, disowned, and unpublished, although when they were public, many were entertaining, thoughtful, and introduced a lot of forward-thinking ideas. The three albums of which he is proudest (I can tell because they're the only three that have consistently been on his page since being released) are Neptune, Uranian Outpost, and Litany - each album being incredibly intelligent, highly creative, deeply cerebral and consciousness-stretching, and massively colorful. Each of these three are distinct and provide unique, unconventional, and provocative music ideas, both individually and as a trio.

Uranian Outpost is a massive idealistic contrast from the glory of Neptune - the former creates a massive story made of little stories, with sound, subconscious stimulation, silence, intense atmospheric whooshing and whirring, and many tried and true electronic and trip hop tropes, while the latter achieves the same thing but in the medium of literature, delivered along with the music. I enjoy Henry's writing so much (from a talent who has gone to school for writing and has been published), I featured a handful of his essays and odds and ends on my album The Dead End. It is impossible not to be entranced, enchanted, and hypnotized by the meditative chaos of "Turmoil Between the Outer Planets", "Johnny Cool", and "The Hybrid Dimensions". These songs are not only massive feats of danceable, thoughtful, enigmatic electronic music; they also boast powerful atmospheric qualities, and they achieve Albert Ayler-like metaphysical transformations. Come to think of it, a large portion of this album draws massive influence from free jazz.

Even though you can't explicitly pinpoint elements of the narrative here, it is very obvious that there is one, and it advances itself in unexpected, peculiar, and subversive ways. The silence on this album can be just as emotive and compelling as the music, and it serves an important role in the narrative. The entire atmosphere of the album gives you the feeling that you're being probed and dissected by aliens after being abducted into their flying saucer, and you're watching them open your abdomen in the third person through a hologram projection. But the aliens don't look like little green men with eight fingers, they look just like your family, your friends, and people you know. They've played a trick on your mind.

The three big IDM hits on this album are the creeping, spiritual, harmonic introduction, "Evil System's Soylent Jism", the masterpiece and in my opinion the best thing Knollenberg has ever made, "Beam Me Up, Shawty!", and the apathetic, lethargic, morbid and perhaps unfulfilling conclusion "Untitled. Forgotten. Beyond Recognition". The remaining five tracks are largely musique concrete metaphysical atmospheric collages. Uranian Outpost is a remarkable feat for Knollenberg's discography, because something that's perhaps a creative hurdle for him, something that started as a fascinating technique but ultimately became a crutch, was his fade-in, loop, fade-out formula. This album shattered the formula and replaced it with a much more fulfilling creative process, one that is not limited to any preconceived or predictable musical structure or formula. Any listener will notice each of these eight songs is completely unique and unlike the others, making for a richly colorful musical palette and a very diverse album.

This album is just fantastic, and it gets more rewarding and entertaining each time I listen to it. I don't know if it's quite a "masterpiece", but it's the most deserving of this title out of all of Henry's albums. Basically, if you haven't heard this paradigm-shifting, consciousness-expanding, dimension-traveling intergalactic audio novel, you're missing out on a fucking awesome experience.

A Litany [of] Ag[(ri)cultural] Gliomas

Litany features a powerful, unique, compelling, and otherwordly musical style. It creates a work that is meditative, introspective, captivating, enthralling and alienating. It is a return to roots for Knollenberg in many ways, in that each song doesn't really have a structure, the format is very free, linear, expansive, and monolithic. There are no words or lyrics, and there are no crazy transitions or segues, and there are no breaks between the songs. However, this return to form might be seen as more limiting and confining, but I think this time around his music has developed many more subtleties, intricacies, details, and nuances. Each track captures and illustrates a certain mood, and it sticks to that mood, that feeling, that soundscape and environment, until it resolves. It allows your mind to wander passively instead of actively demanding your attention like Neptune and Uranian.

This music is also very colorful, and it explores influences not present in any of his prior albums, like world music, post-rock, avant-garde jazz, European dance, and African music. I do think as a whole though, the quality of each song isn't as consistent as it was on previous albums, as I find myself adoring some songs a lot more than others. My three favorites on this album are "Through the Valley of Weaponized Vegetation", "Twenty-Fourth Century Volleyball Manufacturer" (Henry once quipped to me that this song was composed with the melodies of Culture Chester's "Rape" and "Baseball Factory"), and the massive, towering, Godspeed-like "Canyons of the Floral Tetrahedron".

Even though this album doesn't blow my hair back the way Uranian does, I still adore it and find it's a perfect example of Knollenberg's composing talents. If Neptune Part 2 and Uranian Outpost take place in a dystopian sci-fi future, and on other planets, in hi-tech urban landscapes, then Litany takes place after the collapse of that civilization, in overgrown ruins of rubble, when society has devolved to primitive hunter-gatherer tribes. Neptune and Uranian are about man fighting nature with industrial progress. Litany is nature taking back its resources.