Cex, Alder and Elius | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cex, Alder and Elius 

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After years of mimicking English postrave music from afar, American electronica is finally finding its own path again. A slew of artists, many of them from the west coast--like Kid 606, Matmos, Lesser, Phthalocyanine, Kit Clayton, Blectum From Blechdom, Safety Scissors--have been tweaking the jacked-up beats and melancholy synths of British intelligent dance music into something distinctly American: obnoxious, twitchy, and peripatetic. Many of these U.S. snots have recorded for Kid 606's label, Tigerbeat6, and so has Baltimore wunderkind Rjyan Kidwell, who makes music under the name Cex. On last year's Role Model he piled on in-the-red beats, billowing synth-pop melodies, blasts of white noise, percussive splatter, and even some emocore--via a logic-shredding remix of the Dismemberment Plan's "Academy Award." The record shifts moods faster than Sybil, but on the forthcoming Oops, I Did It Again!--which tosses some short sung songs strummed on acoustic guitar into the mix--he makes clear that this is his intent. Like a growing number of American electronica stars, Kidwell doesn't obscure his personality--he exploits it. He's got C-E-X spelled across gold teeth and has been known to strip during his performances. Alder and Elius--the first Americans to be signed to England's hip Skam label, onetime home to Boards of Canada, Gescom, and Bola--sound a bit more British. Their Parental Guidance is a seemingly sincere mix of 80s synth pop and soft-edged electro, although the Detroit duo eschews the song structure of either form. The beats frequently shift from stuttering Kraftwerkian clicks to electronic drum swooshes, while the retro synth parts are dominated by melodies that would be cheesy even for Human League. I'm still on the fence on this one, but between these guys and Adult., something new is definitely happening in the Motor City. Chicago's String Theory, recently signed to Skam, also appear. Saturday, September 1, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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