- Matt Edwards may have created a new alias for a new, experimental style, but the man better known as Radio Slave still can't seem to escape making snaky twelve-minute grooves. Redhead is the debut album for Edwards' newest guise The Machine, an alias meant to explore the world of collage from "found sources and music from around the globe." The Machine signals the start of a new multimedia project from Edwards, paired with film screenings and gallery exhibitions; the record released on Edwards' label Rekids is but one piece of the puzzle. Like any single piece of a whole, it sometimes feels incomplete, though I'm not sure visual accompaniment is what it needs.
The problem with Redhead is that it's neither as monumental nor as experimental as it thinks it is. The album opens in admittedly brave fashion with "Continental Drift," thirteen minutes of whirring synths and sampled creaks that eventually form a skeleton of a beat. But without warning the listener is shoved into fifteen pulsating minutes of "Opening Ceremony"—memorably released in the form of Ame and Dixon remixes on Innervisions last year as "Fuse"—which sounds like your typical Radio Slave track sketched out in more maximal elements, with some exotic samples thrown in. It could be a decent club tune if it weren't for the Gregorian chants, operatic vocals, or screeches. Moreover, it's too clubby to function as a piece of avant garde music, bobbing along unassumingly as frightening samples fly by like transparent gimmicks. Where does it belong, then? The rest of Redhead wrestles with this question and fails to provide a satisfying answer.
Edwards' soundscapes are often fascinating: take the patience-testing "Spell Bound," where the beat is solely made from hesitant hi-hats that are sensually brushed before violently struck. This is repeated over and over and over again, and then some more. That's another issue: there's little to no progression in these songs. The closer "Root People" takes speech samples and field recordings and revels in the ensuing discord, but after a few of its sixteen minutes the "found" handclaps simply start to sound like normal ones and the novelty fades away. Even the attraction of Edwards' unique hypnosis seems absent in these tracks.
The unfortunately brief "Leopard Skin" is the closest Edwards comes to fulfilling his ostensible mission, slowly building a stilted beat out of a mixture of digital noises and field recordings: it's unconventional yet functional, striking a balance that the rest of the album repeatedly weighs too heavily in either direction. Redhead makes for a fascinating listen or two—decent techno made out of field recordings is always going to be at least interesting—and is perfectly timed for an electronic music world particularly engrossed with the fetishization of the aural documentation of the exotic. Rarely does Edwards justify the pretense surrounding these tracks or the construction of a whole new alias, however: if he wants to truly experiment, he needs to move away from his typical Radio Slave material. Redhead shows that it's a task easier said than done.
01. Continental Drift
02. Opening Ceremony (Fuse)
03. Leopard Skin
04. Spell Bound
05. Talking Dolls
06. Root People