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Over the last half decade, the music collective Constant Smiles has produced a prolific output of acclaimed music, culminating in their forthcoming record Kenneth Anger, masterfully brought to life by engineer Jonathan Schenke(Parquet Courts, Liars, Dougie Pool). The group is known most recently for their much-praised debut album for Sacred Bones records, Paragons, an emotionally resonant offering of indie folk masterpieces that all confront the internal ways we process our struggles with intimacies, addiction and humanity—produced byBen Greenberg.
Constant Smiles’ primary singer/songwriter Ben Jones uses the creative process as a tool for working through deeply transformative periods in his life. The band’s indie folk music lays bare this internal process, but on Kenneth Anger, the music shifts to synth pop and looks externally, examining creativity, community, ritual, and their place in the healing process. Ritual takes a primary role in the eponymous Kenneth Anger. Not only is auteur Kenneth Anger himself known for his sensorial depictions of ritual, Jones often used the films as a silent visual back drop during his songwriting sessions, a ritual that grounded the creation of the album. And while the director’s use of saturated color inspired the warm ‘80s synth style production, the director’s trailblazing spirit of authenticity also pushed Jones through his most vulnerable expression to date.
While the narrative undertones of the songs deal with fear and isolation and anxiety, the songs themselves were created through the healing process of ritual, and enriched with collaboration, community and trust. The resulting music produces a balm that can genuinely recalibrate the nervous system. The listener journeys through the depths of every track while being lifted and guided by the music’s transformative, hypnotic power and this illustrates one of the foundational accomplishments of the album. Just as a Kenneth Anger film explores the underbelly of the unconscious through often soothing proto-asmr visuals, Kenneth Anger the album conjures the underworld into a