reviewed by Chris Matei
Music creation has always been a sort of ouroboros process – the creation of new material that is eaten back up again, re-envisioned, and – with the unique stamp of the digital age – resampled and reconstituted into yet newer material. King Helen explores this delicious relationship on Food, Clothes, an EP that throws a whole basketful of compositional electronic ideas at the wall to see what sticks.
Built around analog desktop beat-machine sketching and the appropriation of samples from seemingly every thrift-shop corner that its creator could locate, Food, Clothes starts strong with an ode to the instrumental hip-hop crate diggers, sounding like something RJD2 could have put together in his early days. The singsonging vocal, lifted as it appears to be from a Japanese childrens’ nursery book, spoils the broth a bit.
From there, each song sketches out new ideas from their individual digital and memetic grains, layering, mixing, and mutating the obvious core components into new slushes of ideas. Cultish, fervent claustrophobia rubs up against gamelan-like clatter. The songs are like organisms that start monocellular, eat a few less adapted competitors, and start floating around waving their audio cilia only to click swiftly to the end of their evolutions within two or three minutes.
One of the album’s best songs sits right in the middle: “Turning to Google for Answers” exudes a classic dark 90s tech vibe, eerily reminiscent of the Sneaker Pimps production style circa Becoming X. It pulls and twists against rigid structures in the most musically satisfying way that Food, Clothes can generate.
At the close of this series of short, rhythmic sketches, comes the eight-and-a-half minute closing track: a jarring change in the album’s pacing that doesn’t truly add much to King Helen’s formula despite its comparatively epic length. However, it does flip the script in one interesting and satisfying way: by taking drone-y tape loop symphonies and slicing them into ever smaller chips, it writes a new manifesto for creative regeneration. We’ve spent Food, Clothes building little blinking whirly-gigs out of discrete parts: now we take something wholly congealed and split it up to musical effect. Back to square one.
Top Tracks: “Turning to Google For Answers,” “Blue Raspberry Grape.”
Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)