The career of Rjyan “Cex” Kidwell has been exciting to follow. His output has taken more unexplained turns than a David Lynch film, with the results as exciting as they are frustrating. Having started his career in 1998 with a trilogy of IDM albums that were both technical and emotional, he was lauded as an electronic wunderkind. He then threw his first major curveball in the form of 2002’s Tall, Dark & Handcuffed, a completely un-ironic hip-hop album that boasted raps about dodge ball and riding a bike downhill. It seemed from there that Cex was determined to reinvent himself more often than Madonna, touching upon gentle folk, industrial noise and even dissonant skronk with each subsequent recording. So when Kidwell says Sketchi is “six years in the making,” it becomes clearer why the songs here are borderline trip-hop.
In actuality, it isn’t quite a return to the glitched breakbeats and complex synth work found on 2000’s Role Model, but it isn’t without charm, either. It’s the kind of subtle, slow-building, chill-out record that made Boards of Canada the cult-hero it is. Take opener “Damon Kvols,” a ten-minute piece built mostly upon a repetitive drum loop and understated keyboards. The beauty is that on first listen it seems simple in execution, but when studied more closely new variations surface. Bird sounds morph into unidentified rapping; voices become instruments of their own.
Not every track here is immediately thrilling, but the album does offer several moments that really work. “Rattler Bin” showcases the sort of skittering drum programming that made Oops, I Did It Again! (2001) so amazing, and most of the tracks reveal Kidwell’s impeccable grasp of melody. Album closer “God Blessing,” however, is the true reminder of why Cex became a staple on hipster blogs to begin with. The track plays out more like a film score than anything else, with tiny melodies ebbing and flowing until culminating into sheer bliss before suddenly disappearing. Although it seems impossible that Sketchi will duplicate the hype that Cex once seemed to possess, it’s a decent entry in a sometimes baffling discography.
“Rattler Bin” MP3