Doldrums: Technoise, sci-fi and staying human

Tuesday 07th, April 2015 / 17:43
By Colin Gallant
Photo: Jeremy Dabrowski

Photo: Jeremy Dabrowski

VANCOUVER — It’s been just over two years since Doldrums’ debut full-length Lesser Evil came out on Arbutus Records. In the time since, Airick Woodhead (and a rotating group of band mates) have signed to legendary indie Sub Pop, taken a headlong dive into the world of science fiction and created an astounding new record entitled The Air Conditioned Nightmare. The release shares a title with the once-banned book by famed surrealist author Henry Miller.

“I really liked the title, and the book does fit with the idea of a road trip through a crumbling society in this kind of fantastical way. Also, the name Doldrums comes from [children’s fantasy novel] The Phantom’s Tollbooth,” says Woodhead.

It’s interesting to note that the album showcases a more direct lyrical approach than prior Doldrums releases. Given the pages long list of science fiction novels Woodhead cited as influence in our conversation, musically, he comes across as more human than ever.

“I think I was just really getting on my feet as a lyricist before and now I feel more comfortable… The world that’s created is kind of surreal, maybe cerebral, but what I’m singing about is definitely emotion – love songs and songs about fear,” he says.

There’s a kind of eerie harmony to it all. Though this is a decidedly digital record, lyrically, it takes jabs at a society complacent in the face of technological determinism. It’s as if Woodhead is attempting to disrupt the system from within.

“I was a huge fan of Alvin Toffler and Future Shock… it talks about the increased acceleration – of acceleration, in a way, – in the name of progress. How we just kind of hurtle ourselves along and that creates a kind of psychic friction on our more primal selves, which we sometimes forget about,” he explains.

Sonically, the record is hard to pin down. While it’s definitely electronic music and smacks of a handle of club-ready signifiers, Woodhead explains that it’s a product of reconfiguring pieces of genres in a less restrictive, more DIY environment.

“I’m interested in acid house and garage for sure, but there are new things happening now that are far less defined… When I went to New York last spring, I found that there was a huge community of people there doing really raw, really punk analogue jams that… I don’t know what I’d call it. People are kind of calling it technoise.”

Perhaps the most central quality guiding Woodhead’s approach isn’t the dystopian nature of science fiction, but something more hopeful. It’s a modern punk ideology that allows him to harness the potential of technology rather than fear it.

“I think one of the most empowering things that has happened in music, and especially in underground music in the last like five years is just this whole revolution of self-produced singers,” he says. “You can now. It’s a new kind of punk to just be able to make things on your computer.”

The Air Conditioned Nightmare is out today via Sub Pop and Arbutus Records.

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