Agitated Atmosphere: Sean McCann & Matthew Sullivan – Vanity Fair

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Sean McCann and Matthew Sullivan.

Sean McCann and Matthew Sullivan have blown up the conventions of modern avant-garde composition. Neither are strangers to classically inspired drone. On their latest collaboration, Vanity Fair, the twosome not only explode their old personas, they destroy minimalist and classical composition. Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms collide with Riley, Cage, and Reich.

McCann’s label, Recital was born out of an interest in composition. Vanity Fair takes McCann’s compound vision and turns it into action; into rote example never to be duplicated, just studied. In concert with Sullivan, the duo demolish the last 100 years of popular music, leaving the skeleton as monolith. Unlike the recent spate of musicians eager to turn our future wasteland into equally diabolic prophecies, the world of McCann and Sullivan is not bleak but born anew. Destruction has brought back the lush palette of an early Earth and from the rubble, Vanity Fair rebuilds.

McCann and Sullivan deviate from the playbook. You hear the construction of Vanity Fair as it is happening. “Cabrini Green” is the sound of the duo fiddling as Mother Earth eats herself. “Vanity Fair” exploits the aftermath, reveling in a world without the buzz of mechanical greed. Natural resources begin to replenish, stars begin to break through the neon glow of decayed cities, and the wind stretches itself out with no skyscrapers to burden its intended path. It’s the echo of the new world; wildlife emerging from hiding as the sole survivors of McCann and Sullivan’s vision begins to fashion a new utopia.

The B-side is a bit more cautious. “Central Casting” is ominous radio waves, a leftover signal beaming from the past before the triumphant rise of “An Unknown Gentleman,” the new Adam of Vanity Fair. “Had it All” is the lone dissenting voice; a treasure trove of half-cocked histories slowly cranked from a grinder amidst the remaining debris. It slowly fades from existent, the last remnant of the world where classical and modern were two distinct periods of creation. “Fan Mail” is the heavenly finale; chorus of cherub-faced angels descending upon the new world to bless it with eternal light.

Vanity Fair is beyond modern music. McCann and Sullivan’s creation stands alone, waiting for company to present itself. It’s a masterstroke of elegance, yet it never shies away from backbreaking, blue collar musicianship. It is the epitome of evolution and for that alone is doomed to endure its share of sticks and stones until the vision it paints goes from canvas to crust.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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