Doldrums has come out with yet another transporting album, Esc. From the early days of Spiral Beach in Toronto to birthing Doldrums and moving to Montreal, Airick Woodhead has repeatedly been a catalyst for genre-breaking DIY scenes.
This latest release continues the trend from 2015’s The Air Conditioned Nightmare towards tracks that are a bit less glitchy and a bit more atmospheric, though the music is still latched on to its bristly roots. Esc strikes an interesting balance between aggressive, meditative, and dancey, and effortlessly evolves between the three so that you end up finding yourself in a different space only after the shift has occurred.
The album eases into itself with the ethereal “Esc”, and from there makes an ascent to its heaviest moments with “Swim” (amplified by Petra Glynt’s roto toms) and “The Stitched Together Man”. The second half offers some of the more ear-catching melodic lines, with the satisfying bassline in “Heater”, the ghoulish synth and guest vocals by TOPS’ Jane Penny in “Against the Glass”, and some detuned grooves in “Okay”.
Woodhead’s aerial vocals continue to contribute significantly to his signature sound on this record; they maintain their otherworldliness as they soar above his stormy arrangements in a wash of chorus and reverb. Early tracks “Perv” and “Runnerup” readily display their distinct nuance. Though his voice has been compared to Thom Yorke’s, Woodhead’s androgynous wails differentiate themselves with an unwavering clarity.
Doldrums has always taken the listener to a shadowy world where everything is covered in a film of sparking electricity and a sense of paranoia sits atop the back of your shoulder, somewhere that feels like it's in an alternate universe. But lately, and as possibly implied by the album title, the deviation between this realm and reality seems to be dissipating behind a grainy filter of white noise, and there just might be no escape.