Doldrums is a great word. That double ‘D’ makes an abstract emotional state onomatopoeic, the feeling of being ‘down’ rendered as a thudding plod. When I say it’s a name that suits 22 year old producer Airick Woodhead’s music, I sincerely mean it as a compliment. Lesser Evil is, by and large, a melancholic splinter of cybergoth, built from freakishly mutated rhythms and Woodhead’s warped, cracking vocals. Beats clatter and bang with demented anarchy, sampled vocals are tortured into shrieks and moans. Spare parts clutter the tracks like a lunatic inventor’s floor, discarded chunks of melody spiking off at seemingly random tangents. One wobble too many and the album would collapse into noisy, unlistenable slurry.
As it is, I’ve just finished listening to Lesser Evil for the fourth time, and it’s left me thinking that Woodhead might be a genius. He constantly sweetens the pill with an unexpected pop sensibility- despite the noisecore influences, the broken laptop glitches (Woodhead goes so far as to claim the album was constructed on the knackered Macbook featured on the cover), and the lyrics laced with paranoia and computer assisted isolation, there are several synth melodies to be found on Lesser Evil that could only be described as euphoric. Twisted and warped maybe, but a listen to tracks such as Anomaly or Live Forever reveal melodies pulsing with the same DNA as the joyous, wide eyed rave hooks that made MGMT’s debut so addictive. On album highlight Egypt – tightened up and rerecorded from its previous 7 minute form – Woodhead lets in streams of glorious light, singing like a boy dreaming he’s Bjork, as percussion spontaneously whirrs and collapses, a shuffling steam powered automaton clanking up the pyramids. It sounds pretty much unlike anything else out there – the closest similarities are probably fellow Canadian laptop abusers Purity Ring or Crystal Castles, or the armageddeon hip hop of Death Grips – but Woodhead’s vision allows for organic live instruments, the sound of digital and analogue worlds grappling somewhere between a fuck and a fight.
There are moments where Lesser Evil pushes to deliberately inaccessible points – the raging blips and squalls of third track She is the Wave are custom built to polarise the listener. However, those who persevere are rewarded with a song that successive listens reveal to be the sort of thing a young, laptop bothering Bowie might have made. No doubt Woodhead is aware that in our instant-access world, perseverance is an increasingly rare virtue, and no doubt he doesn’t care. This is an album for those who ‘get it’ and you get the impression that everyone else can piss off. True, it’s an awkward bastard of a listen, jagged and vicious and occasionally frustrating. But it’s also a very good album, and for those looking for something wild, transgressive and thrillingly new, I’d suggest you give it a listen, then give it another. Then another again. 8/10