Rejecting Mammalian Humanism
Josh Reed is amongst the most interesting producers currently mining the 90s dark electro template, in no small part due to his particularly rough and ready production style. Like its thoughtful predecessor Nursery of New Stars, the new Kangarot release Rejecting Mammalian Humanism delves deep into Silver Age electro-industrial tropes, but is even more blunt and direct in execution. Where a majority of electronic music seems to constantly be striving for audio clarity, Reed’s work feels like a direct appeal to a baser instinct, rendered on hardware in glorious lo-fi.
The key elements to dark electro aren’t particularly difficult to suss out with a couple decades of the genre in the rearview; synth arpeggios with liberal use of delay and judicious vocal processing and lots of moody sounding pads are generally the order of the day. Kangarot’s use of those elements can be either very traditional or somewhat bent: check the contrast between the trad-minded “Harmful Interference” and the ghostly enormity of the grinding space operetta “THEIR World”. Both are identifiably the same genre and the same artist, but use their shared palette in wholly different ways. Sometimes Reed achieves the same effect in the course of one song, like the title track which breaks down a precision synth lead into a loping rhythm before shooting it through with some very earthy string sounds.
I suppose the trick of Kangarot is that their music sounds raw and almost demo-ish at times, but is often built around complex ideas that stretch the limits of genre. It’s an uphill battle due to our pre-conceived notions as listeners: we’re conditioned to associate refinement with advancement, and to categorize roughhewn material as being good in spite of its lack of polish. Josh Reed is constantly challenging that assumption, there’s no earthly reason a song like “Reprogrammed to Attack” would be better if you rendered it more sharply. In fact that track and the pleasingly intricate “The Evolutionary Level Above Human” work specifically because their sound fosters immediacy, whatever spark of creativity that birthed them is left intact and build into ever expanding structures that rise from simple arpeggios and percussion patterns.
It’s hard to peg exactly how any given industrial fan might react to Rejecting Mammalian Humanism beyond it’s handful of more straightforward numbers. It’s an interesting record that I think has a very cogent and identifiable aesthetic at its core, but whether the average genre listener is ready to follow Reed’s seemingly contradictory lead is anyone’s guess. It’s challenging music that doesn’t necessarily present itself as such immediately, its reward is entirely in how well we can rise to meet it.