It’s easy to get caught in the stream of progression. In hip-hop, R&B, and pop music, the trend has been a push toward a more digitally-processed, futuristic sound. As layers become denser and arrangements become increasingly complex, the resulting music can be cold, otherworldly, and at times detached. But recently, bands have been eschewing the laptops and cold synths for progression in the opposite direction: towards something warm, imprecise, but tangible. L.A.’s inc. no world is one of the most exciting groups making a splash by taking this radical turn. By stripping down their sound and highlighting their strengths, inc. no world have made some of the most honest music of their careers.
inc. no world, while a relatively young band, have already gone through several evolutionary periods. Andrew and Daniel Aged formed their band (then called Teen Inc.) in 2010. They released their first single, “Fountains,” later that year, but by the time their first EP was released in 2011, they were billed simply as “inc.” The EP garnered them some attention from 4AD, who signed and released their first album, No World, in 2013. Under the name inc., the brothers created what can best be described as shape-shifting, futuristic R&B.
Their track “The Place” shows a range musical influences, from the use of hip hop’s drum machines and crisp samples to dream-pop’s light, arpeggiated synth melodies. The band takes sharp turns navigating their sounds, often injecting clean guitar melodies and plucked basslines into the mix, creating an interesting palette of both analog and digital textures. The video plays with a similar clash of aesthetics by showing the duo, dressed in outfits and jewelry fit for a basement club, nonchalantly roaming through the forest. While they should look out of place, the juxtaposition finds the group looking entirely at home but painting the forest in a different light. This scene personifies their music, which often presents a different way of looking at something familiar.
In three years time — and with both collaborations and producer credits for FKA Twigs as well as a Grand Theft Auto feature under their belts — inc. is now inc. no world, and their music has become a refinement of their past vision. With the release of 2016’s As Light as Light, the grungy and industrial elements are gone, but the progressive, soulful attitude remains.
The texture is lighter, and the absence of synths has given way to spacious vocals and allowed the once-subdued psychedelic guitar lines to feature more prominently in the mix. In their single “The Wheel,” the group plays with its more delicate, laid back sound to produce something more grounded and immediately expressive. To support this newfound vibe, they have also begun touring with a full band, often improvising and stretching time to further extract the essence of why their music is so moving. In stripping back some of the tropes and embellishment of modern r&b, inc. no world has made even more effective mood music.
– Zach Tippit