Nicole Schneit is back with her third full length album under the project moniker Air Waves. The album, Warrior, just dropped on Western Vinyl. It’s good art, and you should spend time with it.
There’s an element of completism about Warrior. Schneit brings together a number of seemingly disparate elements to produce a cohesive whole where the separation of all things is dissolved. The interdependence of the artist’s universe and ours is articulated nicely. And easy meanings peel back to offer new layers of complexity. The vision offered is as precise as it is broad – depending on how the audience focuses.
Let’s cascade some of the associated images and themes for a moment. The album artwork for Warrior is a hand-colorized photograph. The image is of an androgynous person stood before a cycle. The person is wearing a gas mask. We learn that this image was taken by the artist’s father during the inaugural Earth Day celebration. The date is 1970. It’s now 2018 and the fears of those first environmental marchers are closer to becoming a reality. We’re not just eco conscious – we’re described as eco-warriors if we stand up for the common sense of protecting the environment. In 1970 protestors would wear gas masks to illustrate the toxicity of the air. In 2018 we wear gas masks to protect ourselves from a militarized, corporate-funded police force. The ludicrousness of planet-loving pacifists forced into becoming warriors is not lost on Schneit.
Schneit is a queer woman. To be queer and alive in 2018 – forty-eight years after the photograph used as an album cover was taken – remains a Political issue. Again, just to retain self-worth, or in the least survive in an environment that draws unnecessary, cruel and absurd distinctions – a person can be forced into the role of warrior. The fight for common sense continues.
The album was, in part, written in tribute to Schneit’s mother who had been diagnosed with cancer. When the doctor shared the odds for survival, the artist’s mother stepped up to fight with the attitude of “I’m going to get this mother fucker”.
The spectre of the current president of the United States floats above some passages on Warrior. It’s not so much the grotesque improbability of a man like ‘this’ actually existing – but the toxicity promoted by the man that the artist addresses. Tracks like “Tangerine”, and “Gay Bets” are true highpoints. They avoid the petty dialogue of ‘the man’, and instead they lean toward the light. Schneit magically dismantles hatred. It couldn’t have been easy to subdue rage to produce such beauty – but she does, and it’s marvellous.
For all the anger, frustration, and distress that the artist addresses, the album stands like a doctrine for pacifists and thinkers to fight with everything they’ve got. Musicianship is light and understated, and production values simply shimmer. There’s all this weighty stuff going on – but listening is a sheer delight.
A track like “Thank You” has incredible finger-picking on a guitar that sits lightly on a softly tuned drum. How did we end up with a song that lilts like a lullaby on an album that claims to be about ‘the fight’. See, Schneit knows how to pace her process, and how to sequence the emotional content. She knows how to toy with your definition of a warrior. Dots are joined magically.
Warrior is a deeply personal album. There’s lots of first-person narrative, and plenty of direct addresses to her friends, there’s also a clear catalog of issues which are considered repellent – and worth standing against. However, the magic here is that Nicole Schneit doesn’t fight the holders of differing opinions – she simply represents beauty, pure compassion, and hope. She wins the fight by being bigger than the fight.
Aside from the content of the verses, and ‘classically indie’ instruments of guitars and drums that are deployed on Warrior, it’s the artist’s approach, and her label’s confidence in allowing such freedom, that make the album one of the best independent releases of the year, so far. Beautiful.
HURRY – LISTEN – AIR WAVES
PHOTOGRAPH BY EBRU YILDIZ