It’s been quite some while already that art-pop daydreamer Airick Woodhead has been hanging around in the Doldrums of blog culture, which automatically creates a dangerous amount of anticipation around this, his début full-length. For his is a name of quiet notoriety already: he’s been around the world a couple times touring his scattily collated bits and pieces; done the prerequisite Grimes collaboration. And Lesser Evil even appears to neatly encapsulate both a learned outlook on modern-day electronica, and indeed the sonic identity of his native Montréal. Though why, therefore, does it never quite work as one?
The answer, seemingly, resides in Woodhead’s apparently insatiable desire to overcrowd and clutter utterly everything. By all means, operate as an airhead cadet as you contort beats from out of a briefcase, while your brother bops along looking like an overenthusiastic extra from Peter Jackson’s re-envisaging of Tolkien’s masterwork – that’s all fine and dandy in maybe less extreme doses. Though to compose an eleven-track odyssey which is so unerringly reluctant to compromise on its erraticism is foolhardy at best, but more probably just plain foolish. She Is The Wave – featuring Toronto soundclash tyrant Guy Dallas – is a grotesque mess of a thing, as irksome shrieks hum around directionless bloops. This is the noise your body would make were you to shove one fist in a nest brimming with cantankerous wasps, and the fingers of the other in a bloody socket. Not only is it unpleasant, but its artistic intentions must also be questioned.
Further scrutiny throws up the abhorrent Egypt – a song that’s as nauseating as the northeast African provender so stereotypically proves to your average westernised intestine. It greens, as does the purportedly tender, though primarily static-ravaged minimalism of Painted Black, during which Woodhead’s vocal sits somewhere ungainly between those of Greg Gilbert and Brett Anderson. Dronal interlude Singularity Acid Face is inconsequential, if not entirely irrelevant while Lost in Everyone is nothing if not extremely weird – a schizophrenic knot of warped club singer breakdowns and glitching builds to nowhere.
Though schizophrenia is the overriding diagnosis here, and as such there are radiant intimations of redemption suffused throughout: Anomaly is just that, as it just about holds together a cogent melody which calls to mind Prince Rama’s Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World, were it channelled through the timeless flamboyance of the Pet Shop Boys. Sunrise distils an infectiously chilled ambience down into a this time successfully pared back fluoro pop number, whilst the effervescent Arabiana of Live Forever has a Panglossian lustre to it. So too the second of two collaborations, the Sami Nacomi-featuring Holographic Sandcastles, builds upon the atmospheric phasing of Merriweather Post Pavilion and reconstructs it around the frothy lunacy of Gang Gang Dance honcho Brian DeGraw.
However as a cohesive piece, the grim bits outweigh the superior bobs (the lesser evils, if you will) to incise an overall impression that is as lopsided as an early 20th century lobotomy. Given his mercurial approach and distracted execution, this was maybe Woodhead’s primary intention all along though the prefrontal lobes perhaps won’t now be quite so predisposed to wait around so patiently for the next one…
Released: February 25th, 2013 [Souterrain Transmissions]