Final Rating: 7.8/10
Airick Woodhead has made quite a name for himself. He tossed out the ambient abstract chiller Lesser Evil early in 2013, and this new artist known as Doldrums became a sleeper hit online, especially through sites like Pitchfork. “Anxiety is my default state” is a confession he said in a piece meant to promote the album. With an identity like doldrums and an advertisement that puts himself in a dark corner, Woodhead has made us curious by pushing people away. He invites only those willing to listen. The moods set in Lesser Evil were glitchy and uncomfortable; It’s why people noticed. Now that we are all here, what is it that Woodhead would like to tell us?
The Air Conditioned Nightmare. It’s a much more accessible release, and it’s one that has a lot more fun despite the frigid name. The bass grooves whirl around you on this album, whereas they were plastered to a wall before. You are not an observer on this album. You take part with the nearly-joyful prances that skip and hop forwards. You are in Woodhead’s mind way more on this release, and it’s not such a bad place to be. He may be known for his nervousness, but it’s a lot more enjoyable when we are all in this together.
There are moments that bark like The Prodigy (My Friend Simjen) and those times that melt like Twin Shadow (Closer 2 U). The album is tied together with a unified electronic whirl that allows the album to move around a bit. While you won’t go too far here, you don’t really need to explore outside of what you’re given. The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a bit of a safe haven that artists like Purity Ring and Salem have attempted before. Witchhouse is a niche that came and went. Those who applied its methods to better uses are those that got the most out of this cult genre. Woodhead, as Doldrums, has picked up on the moves, the textures and the eeriness. He even mirrors Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica on the song Video Hostage as it coughs up a repeating set of samples in a way that nearly chokes you. Woodhead has so many electronic artists coasting around his brain. Maybe the nightmare was his need to put them all to rest, as he sat in his chilly room for hours on end.
He does a good job at being the ring master. The album is a satisfactory leap through the world Woodhead knows best. It feels like it goes by quickly, but not too quickly. With some album highlights that are sure to kick you in the cerebellum (Loops is undeniably a great way to start spring with its catchy night-drive lunges), you can see that Airick Woodhead is still lacing his shoes up on his brand new kicks. When time has gone past and his shoes are full of muck and are falling apart, we may get a side of this electronic musician that will catch us heavily off guard. For what it’s worth, The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a safer album, but it is interesting enough to be far from stale. Even so, sometimes we need to see the more comfortable side of a person in order to move forwards, especially someone like Woodhead. The Air Conditioned Nightmare is the semi-party album you wouldn’t expect from Doldrums, and it’s one definitely worth checking out. You may find a new friend to drink with (Loops is impossible to stop listening to, never mind its unintentionally coincidental name). This is a pleasant turn for Doldrums, and a release to keep our intrigue.