Review Summary: When genre-bending reaches the point of snapping.
Breaking into the trip hop/electronic scene must really suck. I mean, when everything you release is going to be inevitably compared to such genre-defying masterpieces as DJ Shadow's Endtroducing
and Massive Attack's Mezzanine
, and your contemporaries will be such modern pioneers as Flying Lotus and Tricky, there doesn't seem a lot you can do to be innovative while solidifying yourself as an essential edition to the genre.
Not to mention the hurdles you have to overcome--because when it comes down to it, your instrument is a computer, and as talented or proficient as you may be with it, you will always be seen by the musical purists as a pseudo-musician--one devoid of talent in singing or playing a "real" instrument who has resorted to the cutting and pasting of the work of others. And after all, anyone can do that, right?
So in one sense, you have to give Jon Kennedy some credit for working in a genre that is so easily exposed to scrutiny. A genre where the artist is largely removed from his work; where the artist has little voice. And where every cross-genre addition--from jazz riffs to folk melodies to classical orchestrations and back to jazz riffs--leaves the listener potentially thinking, "Flying Lotus' experimentation was more clever" or "Endtroducing
was more complete sounding." And unfortunately, those thoughts come to mind upon listening to Corporeal
Because unlike Endtroducing
, which expanded and experimented into genres that were simply unheard of in electronic music, while also remaining fluid and cohesive, Corporeal
doesn't have an identity amidst all its stylistic branches. Each track travels somewhere new and unique, creating interesting compositions, often executed well in precision and idea, but nothing has continuity; there's no evidence that it experienced or learned from what it did in the previous soundscapes.
And it's unfortunate because several tracks show potential as to what the record could have been if it was cohesive. The opener "Boom Clack" pulses and dances around industrial beats and running bass lines, while the closer "The Parade" creates a truly chilling vibrophone and jazz infused drum session with a child noting, rather fittingly for once, "this place is so strange."
But in the end, Corporeal
simply strives to incorporate too many genres, and does so without a sense of what it is. When each track feels like a completely separate entity, combining every influence it can, and hardly hinting that it's been anywhere it has or that it is heading anywhere at least somewhat predictable, the effect is an album that works as a collaboration would: assimilating everything and signifying nothing.