Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine
(Double Double Whammy)
Add date: 9.17.2024
Release date: 9.13.2024

Apple Music
Double Double Whammy
Official Website

On the ground level of an apartment building in Manhattan’s Chinatown, multiple lithium batteries combusted in an e-bike shop. It was just after midnight when songwriter Allegra Krieger awoke to a banging on her door. She made it out, fleeing down eight flights of stairs and a “wall of grey smoke,” which she recalls in her song, “One or the Other.” Throughout the song, Krieger cradles gratitude and conjures a universe in which she responded differently to the fire. Ultimately, she leaves us with two questions: “What do we know about living? What do we know about dying?”

It was in the months following the fire that Krieger wrote much of Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine, her second full-length album with Double Double Whammy, a collection of 12 songs that pick at the fragile membrane between life and death. The titular ‘infinity machine,’ as Krieger puts it, “is an accumulation of interlocking forces that propel humanity forward through a persistent passage of time.”

Krieger’s previous album, I Keep My Feet on the Fragile Plane, hewed more closely to the domestic spaces of city and mind. Rolling Stone regarded the album as “ten songs of heady philosophical meanderings packed with emotional dynamite,” and likened her “finely phrased lyrics” to those of “Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, [and] David Berman.” Krieger’s existential meditations remain on Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine, however her meandering melodies have taken on a stronger sense of direction. She narrates candidly and assertively; the full-band arrangements never overpower, only offer a robust platform on which Krieger’s voice reaches new heights. Krieger describes her newest work as “more outward looking, more questioning. These songs,” she says, “are obviously extremely personal. But they also sucked the whole world in.” 

In November of 2023, Krieger met up with producer and frequent collaborator Luke Temple at Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn. Along with Krieger’s band and engineer Lily Wen, they recorded Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine mostly live over four days. The propulsive thrust of these songs comes in part from Krieger’s drummer, William Alexander, and her bassist Kevin Copeland. The quicksilver melodies that weave in and out of conversation with Krieger’s vocals come from her guitarist, Jacob Drab. Krieger, Temple, and Wen collaborated to ensure that each of the instruments – including Krieger’s voice – sounded just as raw on the recording as they did in the room. 

Together, they bring a heightened sense of drama to the album’s arrangements, which contrasts the quieter approach of Krieger’s previous LP. There are noisy interludes, jazz-inflected discursions, impactful stops and starts, and occasional spaces for Krieger to stretch out her impressive vocal range (most prominently at the dazzling climax of album stand out “Came”). 

It’s a sonic broadening that raises the emotional stakes of Krieger’s songs, and matches the widening of her gaze on Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine, as she connects the evocative observations of everyday life that have long been a hallmark of her songwriting to the world at large. The density of the songs is often dizzying, but Krieger’s mastery of her craft is in evidence in the way she makes these experiences legible, as on album stand out “Where You Want To Go,” where she marries observations about the music industry, a forensics team cleaning up a suicide and allusions to an unspecified impending apocalypse into an arresting meditation on the “cruelties of capitalism.” 

Lead single “Never Arriving,” from which the album’s title is derived, is thrilling in its compactness. Alluding to biology, sex and death in a series of sharp phrases, the song manages to address a whole worldview in a few short lines. While her vocals remain composed, describing a utopia free of greed and possessiveness, her background vocals come in first like a dull ache over the song, and soon begin to gently scream. The climax of the song is actually a moment of silence: the entire band cuts out as Krieger sings the word “death.” In this moment, it feels as if an abyss briefly opens, then slams shut. 

“Into Eternity” introduces a new stylistic wrinkle, taking on a sprechgesang narration over an uneasy guitar motif. In  a stream of consciousness delivery, Krieger presents a series of seemingly disparate vignettes - the chaos of a New York street, a memory of an interaction with a grieving ex-boyfriend, a homeless woman, a butterfly - and pulls at the common threads that connect them. Like much of the album, the song is invested in transfiguring the commonplace; examining events big and small and in doing so trying to take hold of their significance. “It’s just a flash of color, like everything else, falling into place in the timeline,” she explains. “It’s an observation of menial and major moments, and how they all fit together in a chaotic world.”

While Krieger’s music is clearly rooted in this present moment, its varied influences offer it a timelessness. Weaving through the sonic world of Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine is the unpretentious storytelling of Suzanne Vega and the stark intimacy of Lucinda Williams. While working on the album, Krieger was reading Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation; she was listening to SZA and the Swedish songwriter Stina Nordenstam. These influences amalgamate into an album brimming with life – and all that it holds: a joke at a family reunion, a suicide at a thanksgiving dinner, a little black dog running up the street as trash spirals into the air. 

In Art of the Unseen Infinity Machine, Krieger invites us to a place where transfiguration is not only possible but actively happening. From this place, the beautiful and the banal and the terrible are all laid out before us. And Krieger asks us not to look away. Instead, she invites us to stare down the beautiful and terrible in the world, and to realize that sometimes the only way out is through.