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culture

Sound Advice: Lesser Evil by Doldrums

With his debut LP, Toronto native Airick Woodhead (aka Doldrums) grows curiouser and curiouser.

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Back in 2011, Rob Duffy wondered, in a piece for the Grid, if Doldrums, aka Toronto-born and Montreal-based 23-year-old Airick Woodhead, would be Toronto’s next breakout band. At the time, Doldrums had just been chosen to provide a b-side cover of Portishead’s single “Chase the Tear.” Meanwhile, Woodhead was about to release the EP Empire Sound. Since that auspicious beginning, Doldrums has continued to make strange, fizzing, hallucinatory electro-pop.

After moving from Toronto to Montreal, Doldrums found a home with similar, genre-defying acts like Grimes (with whom Doldrums has toured). As a result, Woodhead’s stylings have fallen further down the seething, staticky rabbit hole of electronic music.

Now, Arbutus Records is poised to release Doldrums’s debut LP, Lesser Evil, on February 26th. The record spreads like an electronic virus, infectious and rhizomatic in its construction.

Woodhead has made his short career out of experimentation, and so the album is able to press itself into unexpected shapes. Throughout the record, Woodhead consistently plays with the musical potential of error and degradation in electronic sounds. Whether it be the fizz and pop of feedback, the looping warble of a take being worn out or played backwards, or thick, shearing walls of static, Doldrums reclaims every musical mistake.

The vocals on Lesser Evil are a high point, as Woodhead exploits his androgynous tone and subtle upper register to an eerie, often dreamy effect. His singing is often the only solid, human aspect to a track, which can be quite unsettling when his voice is opaque as smoke and fraying at the edges. “Holographic Sandcastles” is an album highlight. Featuring contributions from Sami Nacomi, the track beeps and squalls, conjuring a kind of eight-bit nostalgia that makes it perfect for electro fans raised on video games. “Egypt” is also excellent. It’s full of vast, sweeping crescendos, like sand dunes made of pixels. (And you can listen to it by clicking the sample, above.)

Lesser Evil is an excellent debut from Doldrums, and another example of high-level Canadian electronic music experimentation.

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