Young Ejecta – The Planet


Young Ejecta – The Planet

Sometime around 2009 the synthesizer became arguably the most important instrument in independent music.   Sure, synths have been big in hip hop and electronic music since time out of mind, but the rock and roll underground continued its guitar obsession long after most other genres had melded it back into an overall symphony of sounds.  Then chillwave came along, bringing with it any number of artists who felt more comfortable with samplers and synths than they did with the traditional guitar/bass/drum setup.  Washed Out, Neon Indian, CHVCHES, Chairlift, et al. brought the experimental ideas of synth-rock out of the 1980s and into the modern age, having washed off most of the cheese first.

Young Ejecta is actually the project of one of the members of Neon Indian – Leanne Macomber – and Joel Ford, who used to spend time in a duo with Daniel “Oneohtrix Point Never” Lopatin.  So, suffice to say that it arrives with an impressive pedigree.  Sadly, said pedigree doesn’t really translate out to impressive music.  The Planet, a “mini-album” that stretches out to nearly half an hour, doesn’t present anything new, vital, or exciting.  It’s quite honestly as close to generic Teens (what the fuck are we calling this decade, anyway?) synth rock as you can get.  It’s all very *nice*, and that’s its major stumbling block.  It’s pretty, the production is clean and gets you to nod your head in the appropriate places, it’s perfectly acceptable background music for doing whatever you do during the day, and that’s it.  Nothing more.  It’s boring.  Neon Indian had some experimental quirks, but The Planet plays it safe.  Chairlift and CHVCHES bust out maximalist melodic hooks, but there’s nothing of the sort on *The Planet*; in fact, there’s very little that’s memorable here at all, from a melodic standpoint.  It’s the synth-rock equivalent of a Theory of a Deadman album:  staid, by-the-numbers post-chillwave that doesn’t do much beyond try to catch the ear of people who’ve heard it all before and don’t want anything else.


The Knife – “Shaking The Habitual”



Named after a Foucault quote and steeped in Cultural Marxism, Shaking The Habitual is the thinking grad student’s electronic act.  It’s been seven years since their previous album, 2006’s highly regarded Silent Shout, and the ensuing years have seen any number of remixes, production works, and a side-collaboration on the rather creepy Fever Ray.  This new LP finds them embracing noise and dark ambient work with full force, in sharp contrast to their previous work.  Where Silent Shout crafted bold new sounds out of the bones of cheesy Europop and trance, Shaking The Habitual seems hellbent on carving songs out of pure sonic building blocks.  It’s a wild new vision and for the most part it works.  There are moments where the scrawled drones outstay their welcome – as on the nearly twenty-minute middle track “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized” – but for the most part the artistic statement holds together with real force.  With its deeply, radically progressive politics and it’s artsy noise-skronk, it brings to mind specifically the dark experimentations of the early 1980s, which makes sense; similar times call for similar statements, after all.