Ayo Jegede
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August 18, 2005
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Rock Music Reviews
Kid 606
Resilience

I have to admit, the final persuasion for picking up Resilience was in its album cover. Miguel Depedro’s cheeky appreciation and execution of IDM is sourced from his childhood as a sprightly blond-haired miscreant. Such a personality has helped him shirk the often serious, dreary figures driving the music who often see their work as academic (I mean, that’s the big joke behind “Intelligent” Dance Music). Depedro never suppressed a good beat for the sake of PowerBook polyrhythm. Even when he was crude and condensed with GQ on The EQ++ there was always a copasetic eye in the glitch storm, like on “Dodgy” or “…Just Another Kool Kat.”

His career since then has been a steady rarefaction of his sound, carving out unnecessary excess to reveal centricity that rivaled bigger names. I’d go as far as to say that P.S. I Love You was effectively one of the genre’s apogees, his mixture of high-pitched sounds and steady beats rivaling those of Aphex Twin and Scott Herren. Seriously. What followed could be argued as a descent of sorts, but it’s far from some speedy unraveling: Depedro shifted artistic direction to place himself in a different spectrum of IDM.

Props should be offered for his attempt to re-inject dance into the genre’s name with Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You and Who Still Kill Sound?, both deconstructing reggaeton and dancehall through an IDM lens. Resilience differs from those two in its cleaner production but also its depression of those two genres for the sake of presenting an artistic product with a codified emotional goal. Indeed, the emergent sound recalls another famous set of IDM musicians whose works have often been described as possessing a very human quality either through their use of corporeal devices—album titles, song titles, album art, etc.—or, more inferentially, their very sound (take a wild guess who I’m talking about).

The party has died down on Resilience and is being replaced by an homage to Depedro’s mother and the diverse locales he visited to record the album (Greece, Spain, England). At the very least the process contains a qualitative heft, one that led to Depedro stating this to be the album he needed to release before he died. There’s a much mellower shade to the work that recalls the similar soundscapes of (did you guess right?) Boards of Canada like the cool hums and long, deep computerized synth notes. He has everything in place for a reflective glitch masterpiece—an intimate yet universal thematic device, the right musical range, and diversity in the process—so how does he do?

Kid 606’s rarefaction continues, albeit to mixed results and mixed fare. He hasn’t completely rid his dance dispositions since most songs contain those elements strongly, as on the dancehall inspired tracks of “Phoenix Riddim,” “King of Harm,” “Banana Peel,” and “Hold It Together.” His ability to strip genres to their bare ingredients is still his greatest attribute, the described songs exposing their raw musical colors without devolving into repetition. Really, I do bemoan that groups like the Chemical Brothers haven’t attempted to strip down their Big Beat sound as he did on something like “Cascadia”—combining echoed synth and drum effects with a signature that shifts from 4/4 to 8/8—or that certain downbeat outfits (that’s you, Tosca) haven’t augmented their “world beat” influences to sound as original as “Spanish Song.”

Yet in trying to tote a specific agenda for an album the music itself seems to hover in a single emotional spot. The mood is nicely reflective and complex, but it never quite shows any overarching emotional displays. By electing to bathe each song in a reticent glow to keep it even-keeled, he neglects the vibrant bursts of life that made his history so great. So a song like “Cascadia” can feel far too connected to a more ambient one like “I Miss You” even though the goals are predictably different. Another problem with the album is its mixing style: all the sounds operate with the same volume and depth. I fear that the lacking punch I spoke of my be due to the album’s production process because the points you expect the kick drum to be pronounced (“Short Road Down,” “Sugarcoated”) actually end up flattened, a problem that other groups like Boards of Canada never had.

The steadiness you hear on Resilience is by no means some sort of deficit—his changes have always been incremental and largely successful—but the space Depedro inhabited with his latest should have been burnished significantly. Most of it sounds intelligent but restrained, as though he never looks back to his prior bombastic phases, and it’s the absence of any significant punch that keeps the album sub-par in many respects. It’s still a fairly laudable achievement and the process and goals are highly respectable, but the result doesn’t reflect any of those things.

Release date: August 2, 2005
Label: TigerBeat6
Rating: 6.8 / 10

[RMR]