Doldrums - The Air Conditioned Nightmare

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2015-04-10
Despite Doldrums founder Airick Woodhead's Montreal roots, Air-Conditioned Nightmare is a grab-bag of every electronic influence to come out of the UK in the past 20 years or so. The variety of styles is impressive, although the same can't always be said for the individual songs.
 
The album leads off strong with 'Hotfoot', a bangin', bumpin' piece of electro-thrash that sounds a bit like Lo-Fi All Stars mashed-up with Lionrock. It's followed by the equally strong, but utterly out-of-leftfield, Southeast Asian trippiness of 'Blow Away', a piece with hypnotic, meandering choruses and grinding, gurgling verses. 'Funeral for Lightning' begins as a cutely trumpeting piece of nostalgia, with the goofiness of late-90s Orb, then switches into a less interesting mode of propulsive synths and layered vocals.
 
Other flights of fancy also succeed. 'Loops' is driven by a fun, blooping, bouncing synth across the top, with a funky bassline and beat. But it squanders this great beginning with some altogether weird choices, particularly by random pitch-shifting, a jarring stumble out of key that spoils the song's strengths.
 
'My Friend Simjen' sounds straight out of the late-80s Chicago post-industrial scene. It's all shouted, modulated vocals combined with a variety of programmed percussion and staccato melodies. 'Industry City' is nestled at the stylistic center of the album, with blurping synths, moderate beats, and a handful of electronic flourishes that contrast nicely with the spacey chorus.
 
Most of the slow songs don't measure up to similar tracks on the band's debut and are rather dull, such as the ambient house paucity of 'We Awake', a quiet, slighty out-of-sync song that starts bland and stays that way, seeming out of place with the more adventurous works. Then there's the pair of even quieter tunes, 'Video Hostage' and 'Closer 2 U', songs that go almost nowhere, with only the front and center vocals indicating progress. Unfortunately, Woodhead's vocals are not strong enough to sustain the music on their own.
 
Air-Conditioned Nightmare works in two primary styles: uptempo, energetic and fun, and slow, floaty, and whiny. When doing the former, it works a treat. When doing the latter, it has one reaching for the skip button. The group should either focus on channeling The Prodigy instead of Thom Yorke next time, or puzzle out what magic was lost on their more introspective efforts this go-round.

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