Rave Noir: How to Flaunt the Law of Diminishing Returns

flaunt RAVE NOIR Cover Art

Pair bonding on some variation of a social media platform is now considered a social norm to the degree that it is actually abnormal if one considers it unconventional. The virtual courtship now occurring so frequently that in just over a decade the custom has gone from raising cautious eyebrows, to a dominant and socially condoned medium for matters of, or ways to the heart.

Though not as romantic and chalked full of a different kind of passion it was online positioning and fortuitous pointing and clicking that served catalyst to the formation of Flaunt. Swift in their execution Joseph Vitterito and Justin Jennings wasted no time writing, recording and releasing Codon, the first official Flaunt album with both members under one name.

Largely comprised of instrumental tracks with a heavy reliance on Vitterito’s turntablism, it was Jennings’ vocal harmonies heard on the 2014 debut LP that cemented his role as the predominant voice of the duo. Not to be lost in the shuffle Flaunt released an EP subsequent to Codon entitled Suburban Rogue Animal, where the prolific pair sewed many of their wild electronic and synthesizer based oats; effectively binding the two multidimensional instruments into what would become the backbone of their eclectic sound the outfit refers to as  ***

As of March 18th Flaunt has produced an impressive two albums and an EP — officially.

One would expect that a simple album count or discography, or compiling of a chronological list of recorded material would be an easy enough resource to acquire, however, playing the numbers game with Flaunt can get bafflingly convoluted. For example, the latest offering by the duo entitled Rave Noir is in fact a double album, both in song quantity and duration. Couple that minor impedance with the fact that Flaunt itself was the name of a solo project of Vitterito’s until such time that Jennings was welcomed aboard full-time post Dipped in Ecstasy and Have I Made My Point (Both credited as Flaunt Ft: Justin Jennings). A cursory examination of iTunes shows Flaunt to have 30 albums, not including the already recorded forthcoming LP Spectra. Of those 30 albums, many are EPs, remixes and singles. The point is that in asking Vitterito about a possible discography it was met with more information of upcoming musical releases and “a discography is a great idea, I’ll add that to the webpage”, rather than an attempt at a number or even an answer at all. When the artist can’t recite how many albums they have recorded, but instead go on to further contort the numbers and research with additional data, then if nothing else they have earned the right to flaunt their eclectic and prolific proverbial asses.

Rave Noir is in essence a microcosm of Flaunt’s entire body of work. Upon the first spin there are several catchy tracks on Rave Noir ranging in array of genres and inspirations. “I Haven’t Thought About You Yet”, the sixth track off of Rave Noir had such a catchy familiarity that I was convinced it was a John Legend cover, akin to Shawn James and the Shapeshifters’ impressive version of “Who Did That To You”; originally recorded by Legend for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained soundtrack.

On “You Sure Know How To Hurt Someone”, Vitterito and Jennings combine in executing what I can best describe as 79 percent The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and 21 percent the jitterbug portion of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! “Good Vibrations” being the much heralded 1966 classic, produced and composed by Brian Wilson which is almost exclusively credited as having revolutionized a wave of experimentation in pop music recording; that at the time was seeing an influx in influence of progressive psychedelic rock. However, it was the use of the Theremin in “Good Vibrations” that was responsible for the instrument’s revival and surge of interest in analog synthesizers, segueing nicely back to Flaunt and the current resurgence of the Dr. Sheldon Cooper favourite.

On Rave Noir, Flaunt purposely went out of their way to achieve about as broad of a genre potpourri as one will find on any record by any artist, citing in their bio that they sought out to achieve “what the radio used to sound likea Zeppelin tune would be followed by a hit single by the Little River Band and then something by the Gap Band”.

While there are more gold stars than lumps of coal on Rave Noir, and the LP does well to flaunt just how diverse the two-man group is, the album also conjures up the question regarding the law of diminishing returns. How eclectic is too eclectic? How diverse or incommensurable can an artist’s output truly be before going back the other direction and it serving to be detriment? For example, it would be an interesting hypothetical observation to take a musically diverse test group (that had no prior exposure to Flaunt), have them listen to Rave Noir in its entirety and report back their individual assessments. My guess is that one would be hard-pressed to find many folks that on an unbiased capacity that would find the album either 100 percent agreeable or 100 percent unsavoury. While that statement could be argued for any album by any artist, Flaunt pushes that query to its limits.  

That said, it would not be surprising to hear tale of Vitterito and Jennings snickering to each other while hammering out the 7th song they had written that hour, with quips like “this is going to really turn the Jazz fan sideways when they hear this”, or “the House buff is going to have a hard time assimilating this”. Not to surmise that they would be musing about these topics out of malice or lack of loyalty to their fan-base, but because it’s their dream and they’re going to dream it.

The subject of one having a canvas that they may choose to paint as they so desire dovetails into the age old question of, for whom is the artist intending the finished product to be for? Simply put what percentage does an artist sacrifice their own desires in an effort to cater (for lack of a better word) to an audience’s expectations? Does an artist decide to dig their heels in and say every single chord is what I want it to be? Or is that what side-projects are for?

The aforementioned question regarding the law of diminishing returns can be raised once again with Rave Noir as it pertains to being too prolific, as well as too eclectic. Like Flaunt,Tech-N9ne is an independent (unsigned) artist, the highest selling independent artist in rap history. Also like Flaunt he produces an obscene amount of material yearly, material that after awhile seems to run-together and reignites the debate of quantity over quality. While Flaunt exercises a flexible range in genres superior to that of the Strange Music chairman Tech-N9ne, the question then becomes one of audience fatigue, as well as how much soul and unforced conviction any one (or more) person can inject into the creation of art, while still managing to transcend with the listener.  

In the end my job is to assimilate an album or a show and give the reader an idea as to whether or not it might be something they would be interested in welcoming into their lives. To pronounce that the reader needs to give it a listen for themselves is both a cop-out and fantastically accurate for any review. That statement however, may never be more prevalent than with Rave Noir.

Flaunt’s Rave Noir is much like family; simply stated, you are going to love it, you are going to find parts frustrating, and you will find aspects conjuring the most confusing of all the emotions; indifference. Displaying a skill is considered admirable; flaunting that skill feels inherently distasteful. After all, the talented two are not called Display, are they?