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Naytronix: Mister Divine

words and photography Ryan Mo

Nate Brenner doesn’t think of Mister Divine as a concept album. That assumes painstaking effort and calculated direction — and that simply isn’t Naytronix, which has been playful and robotic and weird since the electro-funk debut Dirty Glow. Back then, the bassist of experimental pop project tUnE-yArDs had used Naytronix as an outlet for his unhinged, if inconsistent, creative endeavors. Three years later, the collage of sounds are still laid back and loosely improvised. Some of them came up while Brenner was co-writing Nikki Nak with Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), and some came up while touring. Some started as parts for his DJ sets. Some were pieced together with the Haitian polyrhythms he’d learned from Daniel Brevin.


But loose as they might be, the ideas in Mister Divine emanate a very serious, very existential matter, “...dealing with and thinking about the past, present, and future, while ultimately trying to make sense out of life,” as Brenner puts it in an interview with Catherine Elliot. This time, the Oberlin graduate puts his post-apocalyptic robots aside to casually level with some Baudrillard and Lao Tzu.


Stepping away from his vocoder, Brenner openly waxes on the gloss of hyperrealism (“Living in a Magazine”), cubicle-induced altschmerz (“The Future”), and the nag of perpetual déjà vu (“I Don’t Remember”). Not in a downer sort of way or anything, but more like passing trains of thought. Fleeting moments of brutal honesty that can go either way. His murmurs might be mixed with illicit quantities of the obscure and funky — Arthur Russell and Bootsy Collins, William Onyeabor and Stevie Wonder. And that, couple with the unorthodox rhythms, might trip up listeners who have only felt the thump of the downbeat. But the heart of Mister Divine’s anodyne melodies courses the blood of tryptamine-laced Americana. It’s the closest thing that Naytronix has ever come to a simultaneously accessible and eclectic pop album. As experimental musicians lambast and struggle in the pigeon-holes of music genre — whether to innovate or distinguish — Brenner has stumbled on the heuristic process of making the ephemeral memorable: don’t think too hard on it.


For all its disparate influences and intersecting cast, Mister Divine is undoubtedly genuine and creative, pieced together from the disjointed ideas of Nate Brenner’s subconscious. The hooks and the triplet beats and the contours of the groove, embellished with the tiniest particles of noise, gives the album an asymmetric slow burn, with just enough color to provoke closer attention. Is it avant-lounge? Intelligent dance muzak? Post-world music? Find a string of descriptors to make sense of Brenner’s sophomore album, and you’ll find a string of descriptors to make sense of your life. All of ours, at that.

All images were taken at Non Plus Ultra in Los Angeles (December 20, 2015).

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Posted on January 12, 2016.