February 7, 2002

Ed's Underground

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IDM (or “intelligent dance music” — possibly the worst genre descriptor ever, next to “emo”) has never been easy to get into. Kim Hiorthoy has changed that on his debut. Though primarily a visual artist, Hiorthoy has recently branched out into musical expression, and the result is this charming album of electronic soundscapes.

Whereas IDM pioneers like Aphex Twin and Autechre aim for caustic and abrasive, Hei mostly sets its sights for (and squarely hits) such adjectives as “tranquil,” “warm,” and “melodic.” Using piano, guitar, and strings in addition to programmed beats and synths, Hiorthoy establishes a consistently relaxing — but never boring — mood.

“Forskjellige Gode Ting” develops slowly over 9 and a half minutes, incorporating new layers of loops and acoustic samples as it goes along — including a melancholy violin part and the distinctive clangs that are Hiorthoy’s signature throughout this album. “Torture Happiness” lives up to the second half of its name, with quick bursts of frantic sound and Aphex-inspired schizo beats.

On “Juli,” a hesitant, burbling melody is driven along by various clicks and squirts, skirting close to the “electronic flatulence” of Mouse on Mars’ quieter moments. The album’s centerpiece (and best moment) comes with the 10-minute “Giving and Taking Book,” a seamless cross between jangly acoustic rock and house music. The track starts out mostly acoustic, with the guitar and subdued live drums backed by an occasional electronic blip. After a minute, a pounding beat kicks in, and the song becomes the perfect techno anthem.

Hiorthoy’s melodic approach to the usually harsh IDM genre has guaranteed him a place as a musical innovator nonetheless.

Archived article by Ed Howard