My initial reaction to the Doldrums debut was this: It feels like a weird dream in the way a world can be so many things at once. It doesn't make sense, but does anyway. Things are disjointed.
Sometimes beautiful and sometimes dark and scary.
This was startlingly close to what Doldrums' Airick Woodhead wanted, it turns out. Good for him for nailing it. In an interview with Pitchfork's Evan Minsker, Woodhead explains the concept in detail (and you should go read it), but the gist of it is that, thanks to a new, mandatory drug, everyone enters the same dream world when they sleep. It soon turns into “this extremely fucked up, dystopic place” and a group of people rebel.
So, as you dive into Lesser Evil, let that imagery flow. “Anomaly,” the first proper track after an intro, will make your brain twitch. Everything feels slightly off --especially a resurfacing bloop that's just slightly off beat --but only just enough that you'll wonder if it's all in your head. “She Is The Wave” is equally unsettling, sounding like what might happen if an avant-garde composer took a stab at EDM. It's got heavy bass, high-end squeals and a rapid-fire drum machine, but also a middle finger to EDM standards.
Things settle in and calm down on “Sunrise,” which has a melody you can more easily follow, and “Egypt,” which grooves at moments. You can feel things going wrong in dreamland in “Holographic Sandcastles.” The track feels especially dream-like, but there's a subtle tension.
It's “Singularity Acid Face” where things turn dark, composed mainly of a chorus of modified vocal samples, pitch-altered and -bent until they sound inhuman. There's a super dour moment in “Lost In Everyone,” with its droning bass and lamenting, pitch-bent vocals and Doldrums stays in that trudging, droning, dystopian place for “Painted Black.”
The downfall of Lesser Evil is that it is not an easy listen. It succeeds for the varied textures, and the avoidance of glossed-over sounds common in electro-pop. Interesting, yes, but also intense and unpredictable. It's that kind of dream.