Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Working under the Doldrums moniker, Montreal producer/songwriter Arick Woodhead produced an amazing debut with 2013's Lesser Evil. The record stitched together beautifully damaged samples, brittle electronics, and Woodhead's distant, echo-drenched howls into a distinctive breed of melodic electro pop that mirrored the best aspects of everyone from Jane's Addiction to Black Dice without straying too far from the style of a camp of friends and indie contemporaries that included Grimes, Blue Hawaii, and Purity Ring. While the tones of Lesser Evil were tense, lovelorn, and downtrodden in a druggy, hypnotic way, 2015 follow-up The Air Conditioned Nightmare takes a turn toward themes of paranoia and desperation, often presented in a far more aggressive manner than earlier works.
Back in January, Doldrums’ Airick Woodhead informed DIY that his new album is about “fear”. With titles like ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’, ‘Funeral For Lightning’ and ‘Industry City’, it would be hard to argue against Woodhead’s comment sounding something like the bleak fictional world David Lynch created in Eraserhead. By good fortune, these impressions are only hoodwinks.
Established upon the pillars of anxiety, conflict, “paranoid sentiment[s], and dystopian imagery,” Doldrums’ newest full-length offering evolves from the same thread of dissatisfaction that has always plagued anticipation. Taking its name, The Air Conditioned Nightmare, from Henry Miller’s 1945 collection of short stories, and mixed by Damian Taylor (Björk and The Prodigy), the album’s 10 tracks are an electronic counterculture update that proudly carries the scars of its disenchanted pioneers. Montreal-based Airick Woodhead — like returning expat Miller — has an interesting perspective on the “American consumer brand of fear.
As electronic music has further integrated into the sounds of modern rock, rap, pop, soul and even jazz, many musicians have begun to deal with a sweeping paranoia over the digital realm. Even respected electronic artists have begun engaging in a backlash against computerized society; Daft Punk, for instance, worldwide ambassadors for contemporary French house, returned to the sounds of analog disco for 2013’s Random Access Memories, their first album in eight years. Doldrums, the acclaimed musical project from producer Airick Woodhead, doesn’t go quite that far with The Air Conditioned Nightmare, but from the title alone it’s clear that the cultural fear of a cold digital world haunts even the dreams of electronic music masterminds.
If Doldrums' debut album evinced a fascination with the digital age, their follow-up album is a full-blown obsession. The Air Conditioned Nightmare is fast-paced and jam-packed with changing sections that demand attention with intoxicating urgency. If the Internet age has given us all short attention spans, Doldrums' new album demands undivided attentiveness.
I don’t think I’d be familiar with the work of 24-year-old Airick Woodhead if I hadn’t taken the bold move of arriving at a gig early to catch the support act. It was sometime last year in Liverpool’s sublime Kazimier, and that moody Canadian pair Purity Ring were due on stage in about 40 minutes. We waited around the front of the room, idly curious at the miniature fortress of synths and samplers that stood poised for action.
Airick Woodhead has been in the right place at the right time more than once. The son of Canadian folk artist David Woodhead, he grew up surrounded by live music and studio equipment, and discovered production while tweaking his father's tracks into a noisy mess. As a teenager, he ambled around Europe and was invited to live at Toronto DIY space House of Everlasting Super Joy, which eventually brought him into the famed Montreal scene responsible for birthing Purity Ring, Grimes, Majical Cloudz, Blue Hawaii, Arbutus Records, et al.
Doldrums are admirable for, if nothing else, a sincere striving. Airick Woodhead is Doldrums, and if at 25 years of age he's not yet setting the world on fire, he's certainly laying down some intriguing kindling. For a white male making soulful, glitchy electronic music in 2015, there's so much that's come before and that's a thing to contend with, no doubt.
You’d be forgiven if you thought the opening of this record was in fact the new Prodigy joint, that is until the vocals kick in. The opening salvo “HOTFO” is a bold blast of “invaders must die” like aggression battling for the hearts and minds of listeners from the first distorted digital beat. This record veers to some uncomfortable places, it has a creepiness about it that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jessie Pinkman meth freak out in an episode of Breaking Bad.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: catch up with Doldrum’s weird synth-pop odyssey, Skinny Lister’s boozy shanty-punk and more.
opinion byZACHARY BERNSTEIN < @znbernstein > Fittingly taking its title from Henry Miller’s 1945 ex-pat meditation on modern America, Doldrums’ second album The Air-Conditioned Nightmare is a profoundly gloomy piece of noise pop. Airick Woodhead’s synth and sample-driven soundscapes are colored by themes of alienation, paranoia, and fear. “I’m sleeping in, in the age of unrest,” sings Woodhead on opener “HOTFOOT,” summing up the album’s ethos perfectly – the world is a disquieting place, and there’s very little we can do to change that fact.
Airick Woodhead's 2013 Doldrums debut album, Lesser Evil, had the intuitive but rough feel of an indie rocker diving into electronic music for the first time. A lot of that naive quality has been left behind on Air Conditioned Nightmare, for better or for worse. The newfound polish works, and it doesn't hurt that he seems to be repressing his pop impulses less, but it also feels like he's muting some of that eager early adventurousness.