“Many years listening to this man’s music growing up,” Gotye gushed somewhat unintelligibly as he accepted the Record of the Year Grammy on Sunday, “and a big reason I was inspired to make music.” The Australian pop-rocker’s enthusiasm for the remarkably well-aged but cane-equipped Prince is no doubt shared by dozens of artists serving as the catalysts of the modern R&B renaissance that’s been unfolding over the past two years. From Frank Ocean and the Weeknd to unfortunately named PBR&B mainstays like How to Dress Well and Active Child, the younger generation has essentially commandeered the Purple One’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” with their own brand of quiet falsetto, lo-fi production, and pop-friendly melodies.
At one time, that group would have counted brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged, otherwise known as Inc., among its ranks. The L.A. duo’s 2011 EP, 3, borrows its voice from the dense, rhythmic pop of Purple Rain, especially on tracks like the whispery, organ-drenched stomper “Swear,” where the Ageds express disappointment with a fallen lover in the sexiest way manageable. With their debut LP, No World, however, Inc. largely seeks to avoid wearing Prince’s influence so brazenly on their sleeves. Instead of high-energy, new-wave seduction, the brothers offer a blend of icy, reticent angst draped in plush tones: soul, gospel, trip-hop, and relaxed funk sounds pulled from influences both obvious (D’Angelo, Massive Attack) and obscure (‘90s hip-hop foursome Spooks.)
The results are dark and slinking, but also highly exquisite, as No World boasts a moody set of tracks that are neither loud nor aggressive, but still possess a very raw and beautiful power lurking behind the whispers. Inc. sets the album’s well-oiled fundamentals in motion with the opening track, “The Place”: busy, treble-heavy percussion, bass-like synth pulses that fill up the deep ends, and of course, those incredibly hushed, injured vocals that call to mind the slowly burning jams of late-‘70s quiet storm. And while the duo still delivers some Princely influence via a series of descending organ riffs on “Trust (Hell Below),” they stake out fresher territory on the softly-chugging “Careful” and stormy “Seventeen.” Both tracks serve to illustrate what Inc. accomplishes on No World as a whole: wicking away the obvious traces of their transparent influences to craft a sultry, sensual pathos all their own.