Empire Sound, the 2011 debut EP from ex–Spiral Beach guitarist Airick Woodhead (a.k.a. Doldrums), opened with a simple mission statement: “Say Ahhh.” That eight-second track was essentially an advertisement for Woodhead’s default vocal tic, the ecstatic exclamation of a guy who sounds like he’s jumping out of a plane, diving into an ocean, and having an orgasm all at the same time.
But the music of Doldrums recognizes that such moments of sustained pleasure are hard to come by in this manic, modern world—on Empire Sound, Woodhead often sounded like a stranger in his own music, his fragile, androgynous voice struggling to find sanctuary within the dense digital cacophony swirling around him.
Doldrums’s first proper full-length, Lesser Evil, is an equally frenzied fusion of rave and reverie but Woodhead is now equipped with a stronger batch of songs that allow him to hold his own against the synth-splatter onslaught. His 2012 single “Egypt” serves as Lesser Evil’s hands-down highlight, the centrepoint where Doldrums’s divergent strains of tropical funk, super-club thump, industrial clatter, and sub-aquatic atmosphere harmoniously intersect, while “Anomoly” and the title track achieve a similarly nirvanic, anthemic effect.
Lesser Evil’s uncanny alchemy comes undone during an aimless closing stretch, but this album should go down as the turning point where Doldrums’s fleeting moments of “ahhh” blossom into genuine moments of awe.
Playlist picks: “Egypt,” “Anomoly,” “Lesser Evil”