Texas musicians mari maurice (more eaze) and claire rousay make music from field recordings, found objects, Internet noises, and the other everyday ephemera that define the idle stretches of our lives we might otherwise forget. an afternoon whine is their first release made in the same room together, and that’s more than a cool biographical detail: That mutual presence defines the album’s whole approach. Laced with room noise and friendly chatter, an afternoon whine captures the joy of a day shared by real-life “bffs.” It’s a celebration of togetherness and, by extension, their very friendship.
The margins of these pieces are flooded with domestic signifiers. One of the first sounds we hear is a toilet flushing, followed by the washing of hands. Later we hear the patter of a dog’s feet across the floor, the tattoo of fingers against a computer keyboard, the distant rumble of a dryer, and the flick of lighters (the latter is as much of a trademark for these two as it is for Lil Wayne). Dialogue between the artists occasionally finds its way through the firmament, and it’s as much a compositional tool as a way of letting us know that they’re not remote goddesses, but goofballs like us. Their banter is specific and personal, and we hear maurice and rousay’s dog Banana both addressed by name. The end of “songs for tuned guitar,” when we hear them half-jokingly discussing their artistic process (“I love telling people what to do,” says rousay), offers a microcosm of this lovingly meta album’s approach.
maurice and rousay call their music “emo ambient,” and they’re not just being glib. The two are enraptured by the distinctly 2010s intersection of Auto-Tune and emotional bloodletting, and last year’s </3 remains about as straightforward an emo-R&B album as we’re likely to hear from either of these restless experimenters. For the most part, the five-song, 30-minute an afternoon whine has less in common with that album than the sprawling compositions on their first joint effort, if I don’t let myself be happy now then when? But the two let us know what they're capable of by letting little phosphenes of Auto-Tune flicker through “floor pt. 3,” and a few minutes later, a serrated synth chord and patient guitar introduce the album's only full-on song, “smaller pools.”
“smaller pools”—alongside rousay’s stunning “peak chroma,” from this year’s a softer focus—is the most complete integration yet of the musicians’ singer-songwriter and Tascam-nerd personae. It’s a pop song, but it seems to assemble itself naturally out of all the domestic rustlings. Both sing through thick swaths of Auto-Tune, maurice preferring a soft flutter and rousay adopting a pitch-shifted caterwaul. It’s a delightful duet partnership, with maurice as the R&B diva and rousay as the gremlin determined to throw a monkey wrench into the album's Big Sincere Moment, but the goofy camaraderie hardly detracts from its poignancy. “It’s hard for me to feel that I deserve this at all,” maurice muses at one point, and for a brief moment a cloud of self-doubt shadows the landscape. Then rousay starts singing, too, and joy takes over.
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