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  Tweaker - 2 a.m. Wakeup Call
by Russ Marshalek

Photos courtesy of Artist Direct A trained percussionist and programmer, it's as a member of the beauty-and-angst juxtaposing Nine Inch Nails that Chris Vrenna initially made his mark on the music world for all to see. Since departing from NIN, adding scores of production, remix and soundtrack credits (he headed the critically acclaimed soundtrack to American Mcgee's Alice) to his ever-growing list of audible accomplishments, and appearing with artists ranging from Weezer to David Bowie, Chris has now formulated his newest, most intimate musical project, 2 a.m. Wakeup Call. Through his Tweaker moniker, Vrenna has crafted both the sketchy, fractured blip-and-glitch pastiche of 2001's The Attraction To All Things Uncertain and its newly-released follow-up, the more darkly, quietly subtle 2 a.m. Wakeup Call. While the former is a more electronic, twitchy piece of work, the latter unveils itself slowly, with Vrenna preferring melody to mayhem, calmness to cut-up. But both are intimate portraits of the inner workings of Chris, always with an emotional center tying the music together, both in the context of each album as an individual unit, and with the two albums as bookends to one another.

2 a.m. Wakeup Call "Where the first album dealt with one concept, one man's journey through life to find contentment," says Chris, "2 a. m. Wakeup Call is more a concept within a concept." A fractal spiral of a journey, at times horrifying and at times blissful, Vrenna's Wakeup Call unravels itself as individual tales of what happens in the dark of night, inspired by his wife's bouts of insomnia. It's a darker piece than those familiar with Tweaker's debut, using both more real instrumentation and more vocals, including those of The Cure's Robert Smith. "The first record was focused on instrumentals. I wanted to focus on more songs this time," Vrenna explains. "I wanted to say more. It's hard to really be emotional without words at times. Also, I wanted to get emotional through instrument choices: live drums, piano, acoustic guitar, all processed but with an underlying humanity."

2 a.m. Wakeup Call The use of live vocals, as well as the organic process of flesh-and-blood instrumentation, dismantled and processed via production synthesis, might as first register as kin to Telefon Tel Aviv's cut-up beauty of a masterwork album, Map Of What Is Effortless. Drop that name, or reference other familiar chopped and cut-up "IDM" artists to Chris, though, and one can see that Tweaker isn't as easily or as quickly labeled. "I don't really compare Tweaker to any of that, though I love those artists' creativity with sound." And it's easy to see, with a song like Wakeup Call's lush, hued closing track "Crude Sunlight," featuring the impossibly ethereal vocals of Elysian Fields' Jennifer Charles, that Vrenna's Tweaker project brings the notion of arrhythmically-patterned beats to a new level of humanity. It's this heart-inside-chaos that ties Tweaker's two releases together musically. Thematically, however, the ties that bind get a bit more visual.

One glance at the art for the two albums shows striking similarities in the cover paintings. A little research turns up that they are both from artist Joe Sorren, whose works are on display at "I found the first CD's painting in a gallery near where I used to live," Chris says of the Attraction cover, "and I fell in love with it. I was looking for a way to tie my first record's songs together, and that painting, called 'Elliot's Attraction To All Things Uncertain,' just hit me. I saw myself in it, and the concept for the record was born right then. For Wakeup Call I went to Joe and found the new cover painting, titled 'Adaptation.' I like the consistency his work gives to Tweaker." It's a consistency and a depth one would think Vrenna, between his other production work and constant soundtrack works for games (of which he has several upcoming, including the title theme for Doom 3), would allow to slip through the cracks... but it hasn't. Every moment on Tweaker's 2 a.m. Wakeup Call is a deliberate and passionate merge of human soul and machine processing. With plans to bring Tweaker on the road with a full band, the humanity of his newly-found nighttime sounds is about to be even further actualized. It's a sound of nightmares. It's a sound of silence. And it's all the sounds from in between.


Tweaker - 2 a.m. Wakeup Call

Disc 1:

  1. Ruby
  2. Cauterized
  3. Worse Than Yesterday
  4. Truth Is Tweaker
  5. Remorseless
  6. Pure Genius
  7. It's Still Happening
  8. 2 a.m.
  9. Movement of Fear
  10. Sleepwalking Away
  11. The House I Grew Up In
  12. Crude Sunlight

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