Morrow: Rjyan Claybrook Kidwell has already spent more than a dozen years recording as Cex, his prolific electronic/IDM project. Begun in his teenage years, the music has been intellectual yet inconsistent, jumping from guitar-topped glitch beats to nasally, half-sung vocals and raps.
Regardless of the vocals, which some view as a distraction, Kidwell has always made great music. Whether it’s the purely electronic beginnings of 2000 album Role Model or the acoustically infused 2003 album Being Ridden, Cex has channeled the best of pioneering labels like Warp and Planet Mu.
Evargreaz is a four-track EP that was released in December. (We’d note that it’s in advance of another full-length album, but he’s already since released another EP [Megamuse] that’s a preview of said full-length on Tigerbeat6 [Tiny Creature].) It backs away from some of the dance elements of Bataille Royale, his 2009 album, instead offering more ambient IDM with overlapping time signatures and a solid blend of timbres.
Hajduch: Best to get this out of the way: I was insane for the early catalog of Tigerbeat6 (the label Cex co-founded with Kid606). “At Least I Can Say I Tried,” the first track on Role Model, is among my favorite electronic songs. The music I listen to is a solid 75% electronic, so that counts for a lot. Suffice to say I was very excited to hear Cex’s return to straightforward electronic music — although many of his detours were great (“Furcoat” is one of the funniest songs I have ever heard, and Tall, Dark & Handcuffed is a surprisingly competent vocal hip-hop album).
This EP is in the back-to-basics mode, but it doesn’t feel like a throwback so much as a reinvention. “Ily” sounds the most like it belongs in 2000, riding a simple melodic keyboard line into a rhythmic Autechre crescendo, layering percussion, and synths, building up instead of progressing outward. “November Reign” nestles into the same icy, vocoded zone that made Darkstar‘s “Aidy’s Girl is a Computer” such a smash. “Day of 1000 Radiant Suicides” is a slow-burn build of layered synth, and “Weedlessness” closes out the EP with a tinkering, naive melody that gradually morphs over an insistent beat.
Morrow: It’s nice to hear Kidwell doing that “tasteful” vocoder in place of the jokey freestyling of yore, even if it’s been a while. (You never know what to expect with a new Cex release.) And though this is only four songs, its durations follow suit with the last few albums; each track clocks in between six and eight minutes, reflecting songs that build and ebb.
Hajduch: If you like this stuff, you already know that you like it, and Cex is more than happy to provide you more of it. It’s put together well and you can’t beat the price ($2 as a digital download, $5 for a cassette). More than anything, it’s nice to hear somebody with a great deal of talent returning to — and improving upon — a familiar sound.