By Sean K. | Music | June 17, 2009 |
By Sean K. | Music | June 17, 2009 |
Of all Pajiba’s music reviewers, I’m probably the least-equipped to critique this record. My experience with electronic music is pretty limited—mostly to what I’d guess is the most melodic of the genre. My general attitude toward electronic is: if it starts to veer into techno-thumping territory, I am out. Whether that increases or decreases the credibility of the review, I can’t say. But if the music of IAMX can pull in an unapologetic pop junkie like me, maybe my thoughts on his latest release will sway a few of you.
IAMX is the current musical alter-ego of Chris Corner, he of the British trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps (I know nothing of this band, but feel it merits mention nonetheless). It would seem that in the world of electronica, Corner is sort of the crowned prince of the dark and brooding, having received much (deserved) acclaim for his for two previous IAMX albums, Kiss + Swallow and The Alternative. His latest effort, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction—on which Corner provides all of the songwriting, performance and production, save for one guest—doesn’t stray from his tried-and-true formula. It’s a wise move, sticking with what works, as he continues to lay introspective lyrical themes of sex, drugs and societal breakdown over haunting musical compositions in a way that turns the electronic into something organic.
If there’s one thing that stands out most about Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, it’s that the record is hard to ignore. It isn’t particularly loud or obtrusive or grating; it simply demands your attention. This isn’t an album that you’ll want to have on as background music. From the first elastic, driving beats of “Nature of Inviting,” you’ll want to hang on each note and word in IAMX’s sonic weave. Though his lyrics are darkly poetic and have a nicer flow than one might think when reading them, the words themselves tend to blend in as part of the greater composition; Corner’s voice echoes through the reverb and effects to focus his songs and drive the beat forward. IAMX has an uncanny ability to build a song around a simple musical hook that seems innocuous at first, but becomes increasingly significant as the sounds around it swell to their crescendo. This is especially apparent with the distorted guitar that opens “Nature of Inviting” and even more so with the bells that begin to appear about halfway through the beautiful “My Secret Friend” (a duet with Imogen Heap, whose sultry voice perfectly complements the music).
One thing that’s always turned me off about electronica is repetition—again with my “techno” caveat. IAMX manages, however, to avoid falling into an electric drone, from song to song or within each individual piece. He moves from the faster, more rock-style rhythms of “You Can Be Happy” and “Think of England” to the more unconventional beats of “Tear Garden” and the growling “An I For An I,” and even to ¾ waltz tempos on the title track and the hypnotic “The Stupid, The Proud.” Though the song quietly makes use of a number of instruments as well as Corner’s excellent voice, the music seems sparse without feeling empty and manages to leave you breathless without ever increasing its volume; it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record.
The diversity of IAMX’s compositions are able to maintain a cohesiveness throughout the album while still propelling it forward.
Because it’s not what I generally listen to or review, I’ve had a bit of trouble putting superlatives to Kingdom of Welcome Addiction. I can say, though, that it’s been in consistently heavy rotation on my iPod since its release; I can’t seem to get away from it for too long. This is an artist and an album that rise above their genre, beyond the descriptors of “electronica” or “synth-pop.” It’s simply a darkly memorable piece of music. Fans of groups like Placebo, She Wants Revenge and Kid A-era Radiohead will definitely want to check out IAMX. As for everyone else, as I said: if he can pull me in (and I like Fall Out Boy, for fuck’s sake), he’ll probably appeal to quite a few of you. Just make sure that you give yourself the time to listen to Kingdom of Welcome Addiction start-to-finish. Each song on the record is excellent on its own, but taking in the composition as a whole is well worth your time.
Sean Kufel is an engineer who, sadly, does not drive trains. He can be found in Marietta, Ohio, writing about music during breaks in his nerdery.