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Evol - Proper Headshrinker

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Artist: Evol

Album: Proper Headshrinker

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: May. 31, 2013

When I saw Roc Jiménez de Cisneros perform live in 2011, his tones and trajectories created an immersive four-channel environment in which the slightest turn or tilt of the head felt as much a part of playing the music as anything that was happening at the front of the room. But periodically, a chorus of air horns punctured the piece, and their braying cacophony rattled the brain from its electronics-induced trance. Jiménez de Cisneros is no stranger to this sort of impish musical caper; his longstanding EVOL project, now a duo with Stephen Sharp, engages in what they term “computer music for hooligans,” which concerns itself with the extremes of algorithmic composition and the formal elements of rave music. The pair explore serious ideas with a mischievous sense of humor, melting the conventions of the genre like a rainbow of glow sticks into vibrantly mutated forms.

In a 2011 interview, Jiménez de Cisneros praises the way that chaotic systems “can yield very complex structures from pretty simple rules.” On Proper Headshrinker, though, simple rules make for simple music, with EVOL eschewing the crowded commotion that’s marked some of their previous work for a more streamlined and straightforward approach. The end result, though, isn’t any easier on the ears. The album compiles ten mobius strips of mind-bending minimalism, executed with a sense of demented glee. Single tone patterns are put on repeat in three minute bursts, with the phase shifted ribbons sliding across the stereo spectrum in a way that makes it feel as though they’re going through the listener’s head as much as around it. There’s almost no variation within a single track, no relief from the uninterrupted insistency of the music. I can say firsthand that this album is not safe for work: As these fluorescent earworms do their thing, it’s hard not to feel a little wobbly in the brain. Proper Headshrinker demands the listener’s attention, and, at the right volume, makes it pretty difficult to concentrate on anything else.

My initial take on this album was that it needed more. I imagined the potential of layering of these tracks upon one another to create a dense cacophony with a stunningly hallucinatory effect. But as I revisited Proper Headshrinker over the course of a few weeks, I realized that I was missing the point. EVOL aren’t interested in making music of impressive complexity, at least not on this record, and the uncomplicated nature of the music is exactly the point. Proper Headshrinker isn’t an easy album to listen to, but it achieves its desired effect. Just don’t operate heavy machinery while under the influence.

By Adam Strohm

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