A Whole New Game
The goal for many electronica musicians is to create new worlds. In Cex’s Shamaneater, the listener is brought to a planet fueled by cyber-punk kick drums and trashcan lid cymbals. Cex (Rjyan Kidwell, who at times goes by Kidwell) has packaged the album as a throwback PlayStation 2 game complete with a 27-page FAQ and walkthrough. In the pages of the walkthrough, Cex outlines the addictive (fictional) game that inevitably and totally consumes the player.
The opening track, “Ritual,” sounds like the vocal-less head-banging of late-nineties electro-metal. From there things get funkier and mellower. Throughout the album, it’s easy to see how Cex made the connection between the music and the addictive nature of old-school video games. All of the tracks have that classic video game feel. They all start simple enough, a leap here, a laser there, that “wapish” sound of knocking out an inept guard with one punch, then things grow more and more complex. The next thing you know, the enemy is all around you, your heart races, and right when you think it’s all too much, you find yourself on the other side, onto the next level.
“Ares” is the longest of the tracks, at over thirteen minutes. It’s the fastest thirteen minutes one can experience. Cex uses some sort of voodoo to warp the listener’s sense of time. Four minutes go by with barely any notice. Then, about halfway through, those spacey snare drums start rattling off like gunfire. The bass unsettles everything. Things speed up and the synths overwhelm without being bombastic. “Ares” makes you feel like there’s something wrong despite everything appearing normal. When the song ends, it feels like it had never started.
Cex has put together a wonderfully absorbing narrative. Every track is a quest riddled with surprises and danger. The concept of the project is unique in the way that it feels obvious. How has this not been done before? When listened to very loudly through a good pair of headphones, you too, may find that hours, or days, have gone by and you’re still playing.