[sic] Magazine

Doldrums – Lesser Evil

They’ve been knocking at the door for a while now with quality releases from the likes of Blue Hawaii , but with the release of Doldrums ‘ debut LP Lesser Evil it’s now fair to say that Arbutus Records has itself a loose scene. Grimes has, of course, since gone on to greater things with 4AD , but Arbutus is where it all started for Miss Boucher. Add to this the promise of Blood Diamonds , Majical Cloudz and the confirmed wonder of Purity Ring and there are some fine happenings in Canadian mutant pop at the moment to be sure.

So to Lesser Evil , a collection of square pegs unwilling to conform to round pigeonholes if ever there was one. If we brush aside a suitably abstract intro and subsequent interludes, what remains is often something to behold. The opener, for example, smuggles a simple club beat beneath woozy synth play, chant drone and synthetic snare rips. Unremarkable perhaps until Airick Woodhead ‘s androgynous vocal blows in from somewhere Nordic sounding to steal the show. On the other hand, “She Is The Wave” is straight up in your face with its big bass and chaotic car-alarm synth, yet it’s still kinda poppy despite hitting like Crystal Castles ‘ terror house wrestling with Death Grips ‘ aggro-hop.

Continuing this disorientating theme, the watery electro of “Egypt” smears fizzy, weird cut-and-paste samples over a crumpled beat whilst heavily echo-looped vocals bring Björk to mind. There’s then the world-beat chill of “Holographic Sandcastles”, its tribal hand-drums and bit-break chirrup reminiscent of some dying Gameboy’s swansong. Towards the album’s close, “Lost In Everyone” basks in organ and choral dither-cum-drone, its speaker-to-speaker glitch a cue for Woodhead to take his vocal towards the mewing misanthropy of Thom Yorke . Bringing down the curtain for real, “Painted Black” then runs with gently descending pairs of shoestring notes and acres of ominous, post- Ben Frost hiss-step space for lingering effect.

Inevitably some of Woodhead’s creations are more successful than others. The mish-mash of percussive pulses, sci-fi synth and ear-filling drone that comprise the title track do little to endear themselves. The cassette-deck warp and direct Kevin Shields borrows of “Golden Calf” are a bit neither here nor there too, but there remains much to enthuse about on Lesser Evil all the same, an album where most of its disparate inner working are laid bare for you to deconstruct in your head at the same time as your ears assimilate these same elements. This transparency is not evident from a distance, but spend some time with Woodhead’s work and it starts to talk to you, allowing it to not only carve out a niche within experimental pop circles but also within your heart.

Advised downloads: “She Is The Wave” and “Egypt”.

Doldrums @ soundcloud