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Doldrums: The Air Conditioned Nightmare

Airick Woodhead’s stage name Doldrums refers to a fictional land where free thinking and laughter are outlawed, and new album The Air Conditioned Nightmare shares its title with a collection of Henry Miller essays about the spiritual and moral vacuum between man and nature in the technological age. But whilst it is every bit as clever as those highbrow signposts suggest, Woodhead’s edgy electronic pop has more in common – on the surface at least – with Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole than with tales of totalitarian states and machine-made futures. Woodhead’s gift for combining experimental beats and textures with vibrant, leftfield but accessible songwriting makes for a rollicking aural fantasy adventure and on the follow-up to his 2013 debut Lesser Evil he takes us on a rollercoaster ride through a psychedelic wonderland, whizzing past the billowing chimneys of industrial techno factories (“Hotfoot“), Balearic beaches at sunrise (“We Awake”) and more before coming to rest – dizzy and a little freaked out – in the autumnal ambience of a peaceful woodland clearing (“Closer 2 U”). It’s a whirling mass of punchy programmed drums and queasy synth tones, a complex tapestry of bells and whistles, chirping electronics, colliding rhythms and wide-eyed siren song vocals occasionally spewing forth vaguely familiar-sounding melodies, but whilst weirdness abounds Woodhead – like the best experimental musicians – appears to recognise that the line between quirky and irksome is a fine one indeed, and here makes balancing his idiosyncracies and more serious muso tendencies look easy: the album’s more upbeat, hook-heavy moments (“Loops”, “My Friend Simjen“) would surely make close pal Grimes beam like a proud parent and lend themselves to complete joyful abandon, whilst a few tracks seamlessly meld prog rock and electronica better than anything Radiohead have managed post Kid A. This is what clever 21st century pop should sound like, an exemplary illustration of computers and samplers being used to enhance rather than replace an artist’s song-writing ability. Miller’s world in thrall to technology may have been a vision of hell, but Woodhead’s Air Conditioned Nightmare seems like a pretty cool place.
The Air Conditioned Nightmare is out April 7 via Sub Pop; listen to “Hotfoot” below.

About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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