Lesser Evil by Doldrums is a hyperactive, sonically gutsy album that is largely unconcerned with convention. Airick Woodhead, who is Doldrums, is well-versed in pop and noise references, and these references permeate this idiosyncratic release that simultaneously manages to be both extremely noisy and unshakably catchy.
This album is front-loaded with two of its strongest tracks: “Anomaly” and “She Is The Wave.” “Anomaly” finds Woodhead twisting a foreboding female vocal sample over a rumbling low end. The track is peppered with Woodhead’s own voice, which is frequently featured as a dissonant drone over the most prominent vocal sample: it’s eerie, heady stuff. If Animal Collective and Grimes collaborated, the result might sound something like this. “She Is The Wave” is notable for its glitchy, histrionic percussion: it’s a more playful and visceral take on the sort of chiptune sounds found in early Crystal Castles tracks. Album closer “Painted Black” is a gorgeously strange track that unfolds into a downtempo ballad. Woodhead is at his most sentimental here: he croons, “And the places we go, they’re all painted black.” The result is hallucinatory and utterly impressive.
One gets the impression that Woodhead is constantly negotiating between two impulses: the desire to create experimental, concept-heavy noise (see “Singularity Acid Face”), and his love of a good pop hook (see “Anomaly”). Lesser Evil represents a unique and compelling middle ground.
To call Lesser Evil inaccessible is probably an understatement. Some listeners will absolutely be put off by the sheer noise on this album: samples are mercilessly chopped, pitch-shifted, and layered into a polyrhythmic palimpsest of distorted sound. This record won’t play well at low volumes or as background music, but it engages and rewards the careful listener. One thing is certain: Woodhead is undeniably a force to be reckoned with in the noise-pop sphere.