While beat-oriented songs usually puzzle me (okay: bore me) more than engage me, “On Giving Up” offers some extra hand-holds of interest and allure that make it more, to my ears, than just another manipulated groove of a song.
Let’s start with the beat itself, in which a blend of distinct sounds become difficult to pry apart aurally, and create, together, something larger than themselves. You can hear it at the very beginning: there’s the deeper, thumpier part; there’s something of an electronic tom-tom sound closely aligned with the thumpier sound (but note how the tom misses the third beat, playing only 1-2-x-4, which helps give the song its late-night swing); and then there’s this distinct, higher-pitched sound, almost like an electronic wooden drum, delivering, off the beat, what feels like the song’s central rhythm. And, phew, look: all these words to describe something happening nearly below conscious awareness and before the song even really starts. Maybe that’s why I usually steer clear of this stuff.
So anyway then comes that reverberant synth melody (0:09) and slinky bass line (0:17) and, lastly, Mary Pearson’s floaty, echoey, Beth Gibbons-y voice, equal parts burn and withdrawal. Partly I suspect this needs to be heard at ear-vibrating volume on a foggy and mysteriously lit dance floor while surrounded by blissed-out, slightly sweaty strangers. If you get there let me know how it is. “On Giving Up” is from this Brooklyn-based duo’s second album, High Places vs. Mankind, set for release in early April on Thrill Jockey Records. MP3 via Pitchfork.