inc.'s debut full-length no world is out tomorrow via 4AD. Stream the album above and read about how it came together below, then celebrate its release tomorrow in New York, when inc. play Le Poisson Rouge with Zomby, Kelela and Total Freedom.
California born and bred brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged have been making music together since their early teens. Obsession seems to come naturally to them, both having earned their stripes working as session musicians throughout their early 20s. “I was kind of a bad kid—just really mean and wild—and music helped calm me down,” says Andrew. The two have a shared affinity, not to mention an aptitude, for playing guitar—a skill that would eventually lead to gigs with the likes of Elton John, Pharrell and Raphael Saadiq. Initially, the lure of being a working musician was less about creativity than mastery. “As session musicians, we wanted to be specialists, which involved intense focus.” says Daniel. “Playing music and practicing for five hours a day.” But in 2010, having tired of simply working as hired guns, the two turned their attention to making records of their own, first merging as Teen inc., before eventually dropping the “Teen” and all it’s attendant implications.
Early efforts garnered a fair amount of attention, all haunted by the same familiar ghosts—namely, the specter of Prince. As the duo set to work on the tracks that would eventually become their debut album no world, the goal was to pursue a more singular vision through a warped and sultry sound. Given the rather insular nature of the Aged’s creative process (they wrote, recorded and mixed the album themselves during the winter of 2011 in what Andrew describes as a “big white room”) the amorphous landscape of their musical universe emerged quite naturally. Even though the music they make is hyper-exact, the musical vernacular the brothers have been speaking since their teens made the honing of inc.’s sound a pretty symbiotic process.
“It’s been a very interesting evolution,” says Andrew. “Most of our lives he’d be playing bass and I’d be playing guitar, and I’d never even think about singing. We were always very interested in the specific micro-universes of our own instruments, but eventually we got more into process. Learning how to sing and how to deal with beats was kind of just an eventual necessity—it was a language that we needed to learn how to speak in, so we just taught ourselves how to do it. This record really represents the first time we’ve felt comfortable in our roles.” At the moment, these involve Andrew finding his legs as a frontman and Daniel comfortably playing behind him. “We’ve always had a certain dynamic,” adds Daniel. “If we played baseball, Andrew would be the pitcher and I’d be the catcher. He played guitar, I played bass. no world represents the mentality we’ve always kind of had. It’s about being able to work and operate in our own private world.” They shake off calling that world R&B. It isn’t, exactly. no world’s heart may be in R&B, but it slinks off into the strange nether regions with hushed vocals and complex yet spare bass and piano lines. “We wanted to make music that originated from this empty, white space…and that it could go from there to wherever it wanted to go,” Andrew says. “There is a soul and a feeling to it, but it’s not really constrained by any specific culture. It exists free from all that. Everything is a feeling. Music, writing, art. That is always the ultimate goal, to generate a real feeling. This music should create an environment that helps bring people together.”
More suited to exploring a kind of private reverie than, perhaps, forging human connections, songs like “5 Days” and “The Place,” while ostensibly addressing the frailty of relationships, are actually personal ruminations so intimate that they should almost only be listened to on headphones. The latter track boasts a video in which the brothers wander into the woods to swim through crystal clear lakes, startle baby deer and chase after puffs of slow-moving smoke while Andrew repeats, I feel like I’ve been here before/ The place that we already know. As videos go, it’s a remarkably apt document, not only for “The Place” but for the entire record; devoid of a clear narrative, it’s a depiction of two people moving towards some corporeal destination we never actually see, leaving a luminous trail in their wake.
For the time being, Andrew and Daniel are mostly concerned about perfecting the songs from no world live and acclimating to the business of being the band. In person, the brothers are friendly but tentative. Given their music, it’s not surprising that they both give new meaning to the term “soft-spoken.” (Even a powerful digital recorder, held up microphone-style to their faces, could only barely capture their voices during an interview.) Despite spending years rubbing elbows with a million elder musicians, the experience of being buzzed about themselves has yet to lose its novelty. As they continue to find their footing as artists, not sidemen, both are happy to let the focus fall squarely on the music. “We’re trying to get outside of ourselves,” says Andrew. “For me, singing is still not an easy thing to do. It feels a little bit vulnerable, but in a good way. I hope the music gives people a mandate to step outside of themselves. To be free. We were envisioning clouds—something up in the sky, something that lifts you up off the ground.”