Let’s start with the good news. Litterball, Going Salamander‘s opener, has a Ken Ishii-like insistence and a bit-crushed chord riff to drive it along; the drum programming builds into taut little loops, and the various squirts, stabs and cut-ups which occur throughout keep up the pace and motion: it’s a fun track. Jumpers is a slightly mellower take on this formula, leaning more in the direction of Plaid, while I Gotcha is a stompy funk version, complete with silly vocal samples.
Unfortunately, there’s a mediocre nutty layer beneath this chocolate exterior. Get in and Don’t Come Out follows a similar pattern to Jumpers and has some very nice drum sequencing and chords, but is slightly let down by the honkingly abrasive FM-sounding lead which eventually grates. Get UR Fleece On has a stupid name and a wonderfully filthy bass patch which is completely undermined by the terrible drums, reminding me of Chris Clark’s irredeemably dire Clarence Park. North Star is just a bit boring.
Everything else on this album is dirgy unlistenable rubbish and should never have been released: the twittering, repetitive Dwarf is a waste of time; Boodle is barely worth mentioning and don’t get me started on Polish Trouble. These tracks suffer by repeating things which aren’t worth saying once: the drums sound disgusting, the melodic lines are imbecilic, and the overall effect is one of steadily increasing nausea.
You know that scene in Alien:Resurrection where Ripley finds the clones of herself aborted at various stages? That’s exactly what these terrible tracks represent: Izu trying to get to (or get back to) the sound he’s cultivated in Litterball and I Gotcha. “Kill me,” they hiss. “Kill me.”
Izu poses an age-old musical conundrum: if he’s capable of making decent music in the first place, why is he gleefully presenting the world with the rest of this crap? It’s not acceptable for electronic musicians to continue in the mould of Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, releasing albums with a single worthwhile track, a couple of reasonable ones and mountains of unviable twaddle. Why use your privilege as an independent artist to make filler?
I have to give this album such a low score for three reasons. Firstly, I don’t think the high points are really worthy of Izu’s stated influences: Black Dog, the Orb and FSOL have all been mentioned, and I can’t think of a single reason to listen to an Izu record above pretty much anything from those artists. Secondly, the terrible tracks drag everything down.
Finally, the album represents a pitfall for electronic musicians: style over substance. Production should be employed to assist the musical content, not gloss over its inadequacy. This kind of work is offensive, because it assumes the listener can’t tell the difference between tracks which have had effort, care and genuine creativity expended upon them, and rubbish thrown together in a few hours. Just because the guy in the corner of the pub with a curtain-ring through his head likes listening to breakcore doesn’t mean you can just lob together a few mangled drum samples and bit-reduced clonky synth noises and call it music. I don’t care if it takes you forty years to make a good record: have some self-respect and some respect for your audience. Idiots will always like terrible music, that doesn’t mean you should continue making it. If you’re not either entertaining, creating beauty, expressing something in a new way, or being genuinely experimental then your work is a waste of time.
Izu is by no means the worst perpetrator, but unfortunately this album can never be more than a “must try harder.” I would like to see him strip everything back to basics and then build some of that clever sound design on top of a more coherent infrastructure, but, pessimist that I am, I’m certain that will never happen. Laziness and ineptitude will pervade this genre until the end of time, and there’s nothing we can do about it except relish the occasional exceptions to the rule.
Going Salamander (2006)
Record Label: Highpoint Lowlife