Doldrums is the alias of Airick Woodhead, a 22-year-old musician from the same city and electronic music scene/milieu/headspace as (touring partner) Grimes. He was one of the few acts we managed to catch at this year's Great Escape who wasn't on the New Band of the Day stage, and we're delighted we did because it was super-impressive, not least because he was using a proper old-fashioned band to reproduce his highly intricate, chaotic collage pop. Sometimes you can be blown away watching a solo artist doing with a laptop what it would normally take a full band to achieve; other times, and this was a good example, it's amazing to see a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer attempt to keep up with the quirky darting rhythmic idiosyncrasies of a computer. No wonder reviewers have come away from Doldrums shows recently gasping about the way they "get you grooving a million different grooves simultaneously", at the "unpredictable, thrilling and bacchanalian" nature of their sound and the sense of being bombarded by music that is "jam-packed with strange beats, voice manipulations and bouncy, colorful ideas".
Woodhead – whose musical icons apparently include Slayer and Bach – released the Empire Sound EP on No Pain in Pop last year, followed by a remix of Portishead's Chase the Tear, which Geoff Barrow and co liked enough to give a full release. And now comes the debut release for Berlin label Souterrain Transmissions (home of EMA, Crocodiles and Zola Jesus), offering three further opportunities for listeners to decide what this is: is it a weird kind of electro or techno? Drum'n'bass if it was made by a musician steeped in art-school mores? Or art-rock rendered electronically? While you're pondering that, you can consider his motives: apparently, Woodhead is "part of a larger community reacting to overhype, the plasticity of modern youth culture and its ultimately alienating nature – his music deals with the loss of the individual in an increasingly altruistic society". The hyper-busy patchwork style of the "songs", meanwhile, is designed to serve as a "fractured mirror image of what our post-internet culture has become".
There's a lot to take in here. Given Woodhead's high, boyish-verging-on-androgynous voice, it's an odd mix of frantic sampledelia and curiously affecting singing – it's as though Aphex Twin had made an album with power pop heroes Posies. Egypt is seven minutes of bloops and FX with a beat like Martian funk, only the melodic core, as with most Doldrums music, even at its most extreme, is strong. Jump Up is like jungle as envisioned by Beck. The previous EP, from the eight seconds of Say Ahhhh to cut-up cavalcade Lost in My Head, could be used in a dictionary to illustrate the phrase "cornucopia of sound" with its mosaic of found detritus – Bollywood strings, fax machine scree – reassembled using a virtual version of a scalpel. It will please those who listen through headphones, what with all the sci-fi squiggles and whooshes panning from right to left speaker and back. Whether it says as much about our current mindset or malaise as some have claimed, we're not sure, but certainly it's worth spending time with Doldrums, even if you won't have time for the doldrums.