Review Summary: A truly refreshing debut by an artist that can help the revival of the IDM sound, with the accent on all three things - intellectual, dance(as in electronic) and music (as in good music).
When they came up with the term IDM - Intellectual Dance Music during the Nineties over at more adventurous electronic labels like “Warp” or “Ninja Tune”, they really weren’t aware how close to something that was already done when rock music was changing at the turn from Sixties into Seventies.
The idea behind IDM was to define a style of electronic music that was neither defined by the dance beats nor purely ambient. The same was done when psychedelic rock was turning into progressive rock - both styles initially producing exciting and stimulating music, but also both turning into something that was serving the purpose of showing off how intellectual, or shall we say smart ass the purveyors of the style were, rather than producing something that was either intellectual or after all, music.
That might be the reason that IDM has taken a backseat in the electronic and modern music in general recently. Too many smart asses and too few really inventive musical guys.
So here comes zenxienz or Hong Kong born, Hawaii raised composer/musician Cameron Williamson with his first album proper “Brainforest” (he did have an EP, “Dose” in 2016). As some other recent artists, like Ka Baird, with this album, he seems to be on a right track of reviving IDM and restoring it the good name when it first cropped up on the electronic scene.
Now, Williamson did not have it easy. He started out early, forming a band with friends in Hawaii, which started to build a name on the Islands. But then, Williamson fell prey to depression, and as is usually the case with this illness it took him a while to get out of it.
Hence, in many ways, “Brainforest” is his manner of spreading awareness about depression. And in many ways, that is the manner in which this album plays out - like many thoughts intersecting at the same time, each song represents an intersection of musical ideas, sounds and quirky beats - tables, sitars (the introductory “Insignia”), or the descending scales in the aptly titled “In Descent”, or the tribal-sounding “Pico” one of the best track here.
As Williamson puts it himself, “I never really know what I will create before I begin. The only way I can really tap into my potential creative expression is through evolving a mindset of no preferences. This lack of a set plan allows my subconscious mind room to combine musical ideas that I could never otherwise imagine”.
But this proves of mental exorcism through music works and Williamson's cross-current musical ideas do come up with something meaningful. In a way, with such a process it is comparable with Pink Floyd, one of his cited influences when they were changing the psychedelic music into something else, with their albums like “Ummagumma” or “Meddle”.
Williamson is also able to breathe new life into also declining drum and bass sounds with the designated single from the album, “Missing California”, yet another achievement for his debut album.
All in all, this is an engaging, stimulating album, that rarely overstays its welcome, and something that might be “a brick in the wall” of restoring the good name of IDM.