Review Summary: Brilliantly forward-thinking and genuinely caring.
Friend zone. I considered quoting some line from Wikipedia or something to define the term, but I think we all already know. And FRIENDZONE does too, to their constant disgust. I used to be confused by their distaste for the term. Were they just reading too many Pitchfork op-eds? It seemed legitimate to me - someone is rejected romantically but told "we can still be friends." But my opinion has changed.
I still think unrequited attraction is a real, frustrating feeling, as almost anyone who's ever been a teenager can attest. However, the older I get, I see that the people who complain most vehemently about it and react the most bitterly to someone's completely irrational emotional response are in general making some pretty stupid decisions with their lives. The only person I know above the age of sixteen who still mentions its existence completely ignores anyone who he does not find attractive, attempts to manipulate those he does, abuses those who stand in the way of this short-sighted path, and seemingly cares only about himself. This kind of behavior, of which most of us can probably think of an example, stands in complete opposition to the ever-welcome FRIENDZONE philosophy. Their idea of the FRIENDZONE is much more positive - a zone of friends.
The best groups of friends are the ones that welcome outsiders but will ferociously defend any member. They're the ones who accept and encourage the outcasts, but don't defy people for being too typical (i.e. "basic"). DX does this. It's an instrumental hip-hop record of the purest form. (Some might refer to it as a beat tape, but that's not really fair or accurate. These are fully fleshed-out songs that could easily feature an MC and maybe a guest singer on the hooks.) Hip-hop isn't really an obscure genre, and most people see the appeal. However, there's an outsider twist to it as well. High-pitched vocal cuts abound to a somewhat ridiculous degree, the mood is anything but typical for the genre, and chiptune influence is apparent if not glaringly obvious. If it wasn't obvious already that the album is designed for and by people with an avid interest in the art, one of the songs is named after and samples an Aphex Twin (a marked favorite amongst lonely home electronic listeners) track.
A good group of friends is also reinforcing and loving to its members. Very rarely do albums get a good mixture of these ideals - either you have an overly cheerful or angry album, or you have the musical equivalent of someone claiming "I'm over it" immediately post-breakup. DX manages to hit the mark, somehow. Against all odds, it's somehow both positive and defensive, but not overly so on either count - like someone who already got over someone the previously mentioned reject just claimed he or she was emotionally uninvolved with. This more experienced person is telling this newer person that they'll get through it, that they can be comforted, that there is no shame in their feelings, and that they are not alone in their sadness or frustration. Instead of justifying unwarranted anger or pretending negative feelings don't exist, DX reminds the hurt what's important.
Another thing that often happens with good friends is they'll get a little dull if you start spending all your time around the same FRIENDZONE. Unfortunately, this also applies to DX. As previously mentioned, vocalists of any kind would do fine on these tracks, but more than just that, they would be extremely welcome. Dull spots are sadly quite frequent, especially considering that these are producers with an obviously semi-obsessive interest in some of the least typically dull genres around. What they've managed to twist out of these genres is a lot more interesting, and helps to make up for this lack of continued interest at times. Cloud rap isn't really the right term for them, they're not really faded enough to give off that vibe. Instead, I'd argue that they're more of the rainbow that emerges after a cloudy day. Genius sampling, perfect drum technique, sharp vocal cuts, and synth work any producer would envy create an atmosphere of jolting energy completely of its own, only occasionally brought down by over-indulgence. In a pre-DX interview with RBMA, they expressed mild vexation at being "put in a box with (Clams Casino), writing us off as just a 'Clams Casino-esque' artist." While this is understandable, particularly at a time when duplicates hoping for similar fame abounded, looking at it from a 2016 perspective, it must be pretty cool for them to want to get out of that kind of shade for such a brilliant innovator. Both he and FRIENDZONE, like all brilliant artists, brought something new and amazing to the music table that it still hasn't paid for. They then immediately claimed, speaking on DX, "This record is basically us proclaiming our individuality in the loudest way possible." There's still little to nothing that sounds like them, so I can say with a clear conscience that they were right.
My favorite quote from this interview of theirs is this: "Unguarded sensitivity, and uninhibited positivity are both extremes that are major rule breakers." FRIENDZONE are well aware of their unusual status in the musical world. We live in a world where subtle cruelty is the rule, not the exception. To be completely open and hopeful goes against everything that society subconsciously states. That's why we need it so much. That's why a FRIENDZONE is so much more real than any friend zone - instead of claiming power for itself, it does nothing for those who are abusing and everything for those who are hurting. DX does as the old maxim would have us do, "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted."