Available on: Convex Industries LP
While one should never judge a book by its cover – and a musical artist does not necessarily have the biggest say in their artwork – the brightly lit portrait of an Asian girl, with thick dark false eyelashes and platinum pink hair and lips, seems particularly apt for the sci-fi electro found on Jon Convex’s latest album Idoru. An almost Manga-like take on electro in its love of the hi-tech, there is a vibe to the album similar in some respects to the neon breaks of Vector Lovers.
However, much like his collaborative work with Boddika as Instra:mental, Jon Convex loves his grit too, and here there is a slight problem. As with Instra:mental, there is an impeccable quality of production, but this actually robs his music of some of its dirtier energy in comparison to other hyper-clean electro-breaks producers, such as Clatterbox, Tipper, JNR Hacksaw or Si Begg.
While it may not be what Convex wants to pursue, it is a shame because the result for Idoru is a mixture of inspired engineering and production details among a majority of functional and by now familiar breakbeat tropes that have not evolved a huge amount over the last decade. By avoiding the more (in hindsight) ‘bro’-like nastiness of other highly polished electro-breaks, yet retaining some element of it, Idoru places Convex as a progressive element strangely lacking some of the energy needed.
Opening track ‘Fade’ therefore sets the tone for the album; a mixture of iffy content (vocals and simplistic rhythm and bass elements), but an unfaultable balance of elements and pleasant surprises (in this case its high register, Japanese plucked glass harmony stabs). This reoccurs: ‘New Model’ is a calm, Drexciyan electro number chopped back by a bumping bass line, nicely shrouded in filtered static washes; however, as the track progresses, the delay-heavy Detroit keys that take the lead direct it swiftly into the middle of the road. ‘What I Need’, featuring Velvit on vocals, also has a vicious bassline and pumped-up, open 909 hi-hat accents, but when paired with a 16th note pulse and builds that are not particularly imaginative it starts to sound like much of the other material on record. Stripping these away may have resulted in a spikier, more taut track, and these kinds of thoughts tend to recur throughout listening to Idoru.
This is not to say that such moments necessarily spoil the album, and there are some very well executed points. ‘Aversion’ is one such example, keeping the number of things going on at a minimum and not attempting any kind of lead melodies; a simple, tough, spring-loaded techno number stripped back to essentials in a way you’ll have heard before but will possibly still enjoy. ‘About Her’ winds an interesting, falling rave stab riff around a stiffly funky 8th-note groove, and ‘Shadows’ is on to something far more successful in its electro, lazily warping fuzz bass. While the harmonic content, on a filtered, plucked synth line, lack any expression to make it feel particularly necessary, the way the bass sways under shuffling hi hats, congas and additional vicious percussion lashes makes the track.
Convex wisely saves the tightest material until last, with title track ‘Idoru’ rounding off the record in style, reminiscent of Felix Da Housecat and Miss Kittin in its growling synths and almost pop-like structure, full of quick, thumping transitions, spoken hook (‘Whatever you want me to be, I’ll be your idol’) and ambient drop for its finale. This certainly sounds like the most progressive and accomplished material on the album; hopefully he will pursue this kind of result further in the future, as Idoru is a more original listen than Instra:mental’s last album Resolution 653. However, there is definitely something about the DJ-tool-like nature of Jon Convex’s productions that make it a strange listen. When creating an album that is made with both dancefloors and home listening in mind, there is always the chance that the results will be neither here nor there (Addison Groove’s Transistor Rhythm immediately springs to mind). While any fans of contemporary electro should certainly give it a listen, Idoru does, overall, seem to fall into this category.