Performing a Crime
Joel Eel’s music occupies an interesting place in the modern electronic landscape. While certainly possessed of some body music traits, the squelchy acid-tinged electro of his new record Performing a Crime distinguishes itself with punky energy and personal sentiment. Less concerned with making bangers than conveying mood, the album’s themes are immediately introduced on opener “Sapphire” where Eel intones a breathlessly repeats a litany of emotional uncertainties over a barely peaking EBM bassline and kick-cymbal percussion that mimics an anxious heartbeat. “Man of Color, My Machine” takes that template and condenses it, squeezing the notes so close together that each random bleep that makes its way through the mix feels machete sharp, and Eel’s declaration “I’m a Lover” comes across as downright combative. The title track of the album actually recalls mid-to-late-90s next gen techno a la Dopplereffekt, but with the awkward looping beats contrasted against a strangely intimate string of personal revelations. It’s an odd mixture to be sure, but one that works exceptionally well for Eel, who maintains a reserved, introspective persona throughout, acting as an anchor for the record’s exploration of interpersonal relationships.
Randolph & Mortimer
No one can ever accuse oddball UK trio Randolph & Mortimer of wearing out their welcome. With just two EPs of original material prior to Citizens since they first came on our radar about three years back, they’re making the most of every release. Hell, one of the remixes from this four track maxi was released (and discussed on this site!) a year ago, and we’re only getting to hear the original now. More than anything, that version of the track in juxtaposition with two remixes speaks to just how malleable R&M’s sound can be, despite being pretty idiosyncratic on its own. Part EBM, part grebo, part acid house, “Citizens” is an absolute burner, but between the smarmy samples and distorted breakdowns the tune maintains a real sense of fun and colour. Schwefelgelb tamp down the zaniness and bring the core bassline to the fore, augmented by some of their trademark steely percussion, while James Shinra digs further back into the crate and finds a kinship between the track and original electro breaks. Toss in the detuned bass swarm of “Witch Hunt!” as an amuse-bouche and you have another cracking and all-too-short release by a band we have to assume are rebuffing all offers, because there’s no reason any electronic label with any remote interest in pushing the envelope shouldn’t be kicking down their door.