Death Star Droid
Robert Koch’s nom de beat, “Robot,” is more than a play on words. If it was just that, it’d be stupid. The idea of an indeterminate grey area between human and machine pervades every element of his debut, and so just as he’s retrofitted his human name into a piece of equipment so he struggles throughout Death Star Droid to find humanity within his equipment. It’s a heady, intermittently brilliant trip, recalling most directly in its plush post-hip-hop bounce Flying Lotus’s Los Angeles moreso than Koch’s glitchy and club-centric background would imply.
Still, the record’s humanity takes its time showing up. The monstrous, hyper-compressed opener comes across like Clark doing dubstep, a sort of shock-inducing crush of bass thuds matched to big, clipped crashes. By the second track, though, he’s tuned his wonky keyboards to something resembling a melody, with breathy vocals intersticed to the breaks; on the third, woodwinds(!); and by the fifth, a straight-up Doors interpolation that approaches RJD2 levels of earnestness.
In that instance, the sonic merger doesn’t take. “People Are Strange” is hurtfully tacky, and, pinned smack to the center of the runtime, hard not to comment on. It would’ve sounded great on the closing credits of that sequel to The Lost Boys they made, and that is definitely not a good thing. Still, give the track this: it exhibits the thin line Koch is walking (possible counterexample: also RJD2), and it’s followed by two much better ghost hunts within the machine, the piano-led “While” and the mellifluous “Heaven is My Real Estate.” In this moody middle stretch of the record, Koch joins Leila’s noble effort to wrest song-based trip-hop back to good artistic standing from, like, sushi restaurants.
And anyway, if the nougaty, song-writerish middle section is preceded by a gradually mellowing opening section, the record’s three-part structure is rounded out by a final third wherein Koch throws the plan out the window and aims for just bonkers shit, music at once high-minded and corporeal, fusing together the graceful percussive freakouts of the album’s early moments with the moody vocal work of its middle section into a satisfying whole. These final three tracks make the record. Koch exhibits a deft touch with vocal samples, taking from Prefuse 73 an understanding of the human voice as its own sort of melody and cross-breeding it with every percussive trick he can think of. By the end of the album he’s treating guitar plucks as their own sort of percussion, flubbing notes like they were rambunctious breaks, phasing them in and out like he did samples earlier on the record. It’s audacious stuff, made all the more daring for how swift and enjoyably the runtime has passed–barring, of course, that unfortunate Jim Morrison lift. Next time, no classic rock.
@DefSound World Premiere! ∂eƒS❍und. // young.defferson. (prt.1-3.finally ) //
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