Atmospheric Electronica for Driving Through the Dark — Away from Something
Doldrums new release Esc (evidently from the album art, the abbreviation for “escape”) succumbs to the recent development in experimental electronic “folk” in which much of the lyrical content is obscured by distortion. It is as if the performers are underwater, or manifesting the sound from behind thick glass. This might be an aesthetic choice and a deliberate provocation, as titles like “Against the Glass” suggest.
In several places, the album utilizes found sounds. The opening track begins with a sound much like an engine, and tracks “Heater” and “Okay” appear to co-opt the sound of whistling wind. Multiple songs employ unconventional drones that keen and grate on the senses in equal parts. The album’s sound falls somewhere on the spectrum between Muse and Foster the People, with an overall nasal vocal quality and lyrics ranging from vaguely intelligible to something resembling a performance art piece deliberately distorting acoustics.
Distortion is a motif throughout the album, especially on songs such as the title track, “Esc,” and “The Stitched Together Man,” a track featuring an intro appropriate for running from something menacing in a thriller, and lyrics that flow (or, don’t) like a slam poem. This sort of recitative-style lyrical content is extended on “Swim,” which features a long, drone-heavy instrumental break and lyrics drawn out much like an incantation. The album as a whole errs on the side of atmosphere, with lyrical content that could surely be appreciated on a second or third listen. For those who prefer their electronica a touch more comestible, “Heater” and the more mellow and vaguely memetic “Machine Boi” may be top tracks. Esc has an overarching sense of chaos and forceful texturing that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but can be summed up by the last track, ambivalently titled “Okay.”