Frisson, vol. 1


Every music lover knows the feeling: the headphones are in, the playlist is chosen and the chills hit. The tunes pulsing through the earbuds resonate throughout the body, creating a psychophysiological response. This sensation, often deemed as chills, auditory crispness, is formally known as Frisson. Each week, this column will be dissecting three songs that cause transcendent music experiences. We’ll explore the composition and style that makes listening to these pieces a musical peak experience

To start off this week, we’ll be looking at “Because” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The piece, written by John Lennon, is one of the finer examples of musical experimentation throughout the Beatles’ discography. Unlike other pieces found on albums such as Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour, this type of experimental music strays from that of a hallucinogenic trip, resembling more or less a state of euphoria instead. The listener gets brought into the world of the song by a smooth three part harmony, each recorded three times each, making for a nine voice introduction. The voices are bare, accompanied by nothing but themselves. This leaves the listener feeling uneasy, entranced, and awaiting instrumental backing. The lyrics, although simple, are also somewhat captivating. “Becuase the world is round, it turns me on” is the first line sung by the 3 voices. Although incredibly vague, and weirdly random, it almost hypnotizes the listener. The backing accompaniment doesn’t begin until over a minute into the song, starting only with an electric harpsichord line. Using a moog synthasizer, the musicians create a dissonance and eariness in the last 30 seconds, using erratic vibrato and ending somewhat abruptly after two harmonizing “Ahs”. “Because” uses no percussion, and relies fully on the voices and synthesizers to give an intense auditory experience to the listener. 

Garren Sean, a musician from the Bay Area, who’s best known for his production of Chance the Rapper’s “Smoke Break”, is an instrumental force to be reckoned with. Especially when regarding one of his latest singles “There She Go”. The song, like most of Sean’s work, includes heavy base riffing, and mixing of different genres, including funk, rock, and rap. His use of the synth base is extremely unique, as many producers using it often use extra sounds and instruments for layering. Not Sean. He finds that simplicity goes a long way, especially in a piece such as “There She Go”. The song begins with acapella layering of his voice, followed by an accompaniment of a snare drum line, some guitar riffs, and an occasional synthasizer. The baseline, which kicks in at the same time as the lead vocals, gives away its groove immediately. Sean’s listeners will have to fight to bob their head to the beat he lays down. His vocals are edited to reverberate and vibrate, sending tingles through the body. Sean also works with stripping down the music, allowing for his most layered parts to feel immensly satisfying and immersive. “There She Go”, although a modern day piece, takes inspiration from its funk processors, to create an everlasting sound.

When NYC based punk band Laundry Day released the 4 track sequel to their debut album, many fans were surprised by their sound. Taking on a far harsher and more experimental sound, Light Up Shoes 2 expanded the young band’s musical boundaries. One of the harshest and most exhilarating examples of this change is the album’s second track, entitled “Bulldog”. Using a keyboard effect, pianist and singer Sawyer Nunes plays a rhythmic, staccato beep, alternating between two notes. This acts as the song’s intro, along with Jude’s, the lead singer of the band, accompaniment for the first 40 seconds. Layering on guitar and bass amp feedback, the song starts in an off putting manner, until it is all stripped away for the first chorus. The lead singers vocals are left bare, singing “I guess I believe in love, but fuck it. You’re not my husband or something other than my girlfriend,” the lyrics, although juvenile, create quite an impact mixed with the bareness of the voice, along with the contrast from the offputting and disjointed verse. Although the song as a whole is an auditory journey, the most intense part is the ending by far. The band loops the chorus, stripping it bare, then repeating it with instrumentals. Following this, it begins to slowly speed up the final reprise of the chorus, feeling supersonic. The instrumentals then take on the sound of a speeding race car, resembling a vrooming hummer. The listener will feel like they are as out of control as the song, leaving them breathless, overstimulated, and energetic. 

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