N.E.R.D. "Seeing Sounds" Review
Sean Dj Kim | 04/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"N.E.R.D is an American hybrid band of hip hop, funk, and rock. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were a duo as The Neptunes and they formed N.E.R.D with Shay Haley as a side project of The Neptune in 2001. After their first two albums achieved success in Europe, Japan, and the U.S., N.E.R.D's highly anticipated third album, "Seeing Sounds" was released in June 2008. As a measure of their success, in the first week of its release, the album sold 80,000 copies. "Seeing Sounds" was produced solely by Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo while Williams wrote most of the songs. The title and content of the album revolves around the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia, which refers to a mixing of sensory modalities. Furthermore, the cover art for the album shows a red haired gorilla standing on an image of a brain, their band logo. The three N.E.R.D members are standing in the forefront, dwarfed by the titanic size of the gorilla. I did not know how the album name, cover art, and their music would all come together until I started listening to each individual track. Some of their tracks are nonsensical, others are somewhat serious, but no one can take away the vast array of sounds they used in their songs.
My personal favorite song in "Seeing Sounds" is the first single they released from the album, "Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)." Written by Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo, the title of the song derives the subject of social snorting of cocaine in restrooms among women. The song begins with the phrase "All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom" repeating several times as the acoustic bass patch from a Roland 5080 is introduced shortly thereafter. Afterwards drums from the Triton Extreme can be heard as well as the scratching of a vinyl record back and forth from time to time. The beats are generally fast paced, up tempo dance beats and create the partying image at a club very well. Personally, the beats make me want to get up and start dancing, although I am not a very skilled dancer. Although, the subject matter of the piece deals with a serious issue, the song sounds somewhat comical. With the occasional scratching as well as the addition of strange hooting noises in the background, it is hard to believe the song deals with such an issue. Without listening to the lyrics and just the music itself, one may think of it as a goofy sounding song. However, I think this is the strong point of the group N.E.R.D. Their ability to use various sounds in their pieces is uncanny and their usage of technosonic instruments is top notch. Besides "Everyone Nose," I personally liked and would recommend "Anti Matter," "Spaz," and "Sooner or Later" to really get a full taste of their music.
N.E.R.D uses a ton of technosonic instruments and computer programs to create their music and they bring out the best in them. Pharell Williams uses a Triton Extreme, Triton Pro and Pro Tools while Chad Hugo uses Access Virus TI, Roland JV-1080, JV-2080, XV-5080, TR-808 and TR-909. All of these instruments can be ultimately credited to Max Mathews, the father of computer music, as well as Risset, Tenney, and the inventor of FM synthesis, John Chowning. These computer music pioneers have made today's computer generated music possible with their inventions and endless research. They learned about the endless boundaries of computer generated music and John Chowning's inventing of the FM synthesis led to the creation of the first commercially successful digital FM synthesizer, the Yamaha DX7. Various pieces in "Seeing Sounds" have familiar technosonic elements to them as I could clearly hear parts of the songs resembling the pieces from the founders of computer music.
"Seeing Sounds" incorporates an innumerable collection of sounds into a sometimes funny, but overall, an astounding sonic experience. To explore the way of N.E.R.D.'s music I can only recommend that you give their album a try, but I do believe you will not be disappointed.