Ayo Jegede
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July 22, 2005
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A Guy Called Gerald
To All Things What They Need

i've never known Taoists, only hippies who like the stuff, which makes perfect sense for a religion whose ultimate, paradoxical goal is self-aggrandizing self-effacement. junk philosophy, really. it asks for you to 'be one' with things and emanate a thousand spokes from an empty center. most Dead heads simply use this as an excuse to buy the most ornate bong they can find and scour the earth for the purest hashish. hippies, i've always believed, appropriate any and all things advocating a reversion to a more primitive position, one without the constraints of single-colored shirts, a shave, or a shower.

i've similarly never known Gerald Simpson, known also as A Guy Called Gerald. i never heard his pioneering house music of the 80's and 90's, never once heard his most famous single, 'Voodoo Ray,' and didn't buy a single 808 State album. yet every review i've found starts off first with his resplendent and mercurial past, extolling the great impact he had on everyone from Faithless to Goldie. then they often describe his latest work as being an exanimate appeal to the aforementioned history as both 2000's Essence and 2005's To All Things What They Need recycle archaic formulas found on drum n' bass and IDM respectively. as such, his last album has been unfairly and unceremoniously panned, and while his latest effort is admirable, the resultant assemblage is lacking even without knowledge of his accomplishments.

the album title is taken from a book called Reality Revealed: The Theory of Multidimensional Reality, a theory based abstractly on scientific grounds and mostly on the amnesic prospects of multiple universes. the quotation in question espouses the Tao as being shapeless, formless, and instead a "mode of being," as though it were an intangible, inexplicable, but veracious entity. Simpson desperately wants to divorce his powerful legacy from his name, or at the very least defer that legacy to the annals of history. but for that effort the music is treated poorly. songs languish in their static nature, devoid of complexity or alterations. take 'To Love,' whose attractive, deep bass lures you in with its cavernous pounding. but the song itself is simultaneously short and overdrawn as it has a meager running time of 3:27 and that attractive, pummeling bass and bass drum lose their luster. after it all you feel swept away all the while the song sweeps by.

the faux nothingness he seeks so hard to achieve also disappoints terribly, as on the the nondescript 'American Cars' and the affected 'Millenium Sanhedrin.' Ursula Rucker's performance on the latter is especially unfortunate, her megillahs and didactic polemics coming off as formulaic and her physical performance coming off as, at best, comme ši comme ša. elsewhere, however, Simpson does show experimental flourishes that are layered and kinetic, as on 'Tajeen,' mixing in a pleasantly surprising double bass with the prosthetic rest. 'Call For Prayer' and 'Strangest Changes' are also well executed, the former exuding patience when displaying its constituent parts and the latter buttressed by Finley Quaye's easy, silky vox. the rest of the album is decent, if not predictable and a little base, especially in lieu of more advanced, established IDM artists like Boards of Canada, Autechre and, hell, almost everyone else on Warp Records.

Taoism is about embracing forgetfulness rather than trying to remember an already impermanent world. the problem, then, is that it tries to build a working system ex nihilo, making suspect any declarations as to the nature of "The One." it's escapism sanctified because it is religious; hokey daydreams given a giant podium and tenure. Simpson's history will always precede him and this isn't entirely to his detriment. the mistake he makes is repeatedly trying to exonerate and extract himself from it. in trying to forget the past all he does is make it more acute.

Release date: February 15, 2005
Label: Studio K7
Rating: 5.7 / 10

[RMR]