142: JESSE DRAXLER

Today’s a new one – I’m writing about an artist whose primary art form is not music, but rather a mixture of photography, painting, and digital artistry. The artist has, however, created music that is worth discussing due to being fascinating in both method and outcome, but we will get to that.

Jesse Draxler’s visual art is often abstract, striking, and (since 2015) exclusively black in white – a transition he has said felt natural given his colourblindness.

And now we come to the reason I’m writing about Draxler on a music blog – Reigning Cement.

During 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Jesse Draxler recorded 34 distinct audio samples in the industrial environments surrounding his studio at the edge of Los Angeles. These samples were given to a an incredible range of talented musicians – including members of Full of Hell, Portrayal of Guilt, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Chelsea Wolfe. These audio samples were given with a challenge – build a song using no instrumentation other than the 34 samples and, if the artist wished, vocals.

What resulted is a fascinating study in the creativity and malleability of sound and melody. Each artist involved produced something entirely unique and very much imbued with their own sonic style.

Musically, setting aside the concept for a moment, the album is an exciting slice of experimental noise and industrial, with elements of countless other genres. Without the background information, most people would not pick the fact every track had been constructed from the same 34 samples.

Reigning Cement is an unusual and wonderful experience born out of a bold experiment. Fortunately, the experiment produced brilliant results.