R WE WHO R WE — a project by composer/performers Philip White and Ted Hearne — releases its sophomore album, “I Love You”, on November 21. The duo will celebrate the release with their first New York show in several years on December 2 at Brooklyn’s Union Pool.
Both acclaimed creators in their own right, White and Hearne combine for R WE WHO R WE to make music that marries beauty and brutality. White’s homemade electronics merge with Hearne’s expressive vocal feats in songs gutted with noise. Brash, hollowed out standards are deconstructed and infused with moments of arresting but temporary warmth.
On their eponymous debut, the duo deconstructed pop songs: Madonna’s “Material Girl”, Eminem’s “Hi My Name Is” and of course Ke$ha’s “WE R WHO WE R” from which they cribbed their name. The album paid uneasy tribute to the way these songs offered a sense of self for the listener, while maintaining a constant push undermining each song’s exploitative potential. With that, R WE WHO R WE became a project about how we sculpt and perform our identities.
”I Love You” shifts these ideas about identity onto a fractured set of cultural narratives about relationships, love and masculinity; honing in on the inevitable collisions. Nine original songs fuse a ballad-driven sense of lyricism with a noise-music sonic palette, in a sense both violent and pathetic. The duo works through disturbed desire (“Song and Dance,” “Kristin”), adolescent projections (“I Just Want U II”, “Womb”), disintegrating relationships (“Silence”, “Valentine’s”, “Cutaway”) and violence (“Two Trees”, “Firestarter”).
Hearne and White met in 2005 in Charleston, SC as young composers. After diverging on different paths (Ted to Yale for composition and Philip to Mills College for electronic music) the two reconnected in NYC in 2010 and formed R WE WHO R WE. White plays a self-constructed and ever-evolving instrument made of both repurposed analog electronics and state-of-the-art digital controlling devices, harnessing no-input feedback into a mystifying array of luscious sonic landscapes and hard driving dance beats, which the Wall Street Journal has called a “vibrant textural tapestry” and the Village Voice has called “annihilating and enervating.” Hearne, a singer with a massive range of styles and registers (“a vocal hellion,” Time Out Chicago; “fresh and muscular music,” The New York Times), brings an expressive intensity to his performances, embodying a landscape of emotions and vocal color, from the stripped-down human voice to the ecstatically digitally processed.