Kid Smpl – Escape Pod EPPosted by Tarin Fasano
It’s no surprise that Kid Smpl‘s “atmospheric bass” originated in Seattle. Charcoal washes and sporadic, discouraged vocals drift around. Waves crash. Debris meanders. Escape Pod is abstract, cerebral and well-planned out. Nothing will grab you by the hips and make you dance or worm its way into your head and make you hum. It’s vaguely escapist but for the most part Escape Pod is like sulking on a dock during a Seattle winter.
The opening and title track, “Escape Pod” is slow and deliberate. Kicks of bass and hisses of gas accompany sighs and cascades of rain. Vocals swimming in the murk are barely distinguishable from padding synth. There is a simultaneous absent-mindedness and precision, akin to dismally rearranging mundane items on a desk. At the end you can make out a small voice asking, “Hello? Is anybody there? Is…uhm…”
“Pulse” keeps locking into grooves for a moment before pausing. Rain gives way to waves, which cycle into starkly impersonal synths. At first a refusal to pick up momentum, the periodic interruptions eventually create their own rhythm. Yes, Kid Smpl, this is intelligent for a piece bearing this name. Later in the song the stops cease – but there is very little satisfaction in this.
“What Kept Us” and “Relief” continue in the same vein, bleak and atmospheric. Melodies are not lyrical but muffled and clipped. Bass is not indulgent but spastic and weak. San Francisco DJ D33J (part of the Wedidit Collective) mixes up “Pulse” into something more club-friendly by superimposing a predictable beat and re-compartmentalizing the amorphous sludge. Never will Kid Smpl offer resolution. Instead, he uses lots of technology to immerse you in his carefully constructed despair.
There’s nothing wrong with Escape Pod, except that it only provides an escape during the summer. During the winter it will just plunge you deeper into those grey skies. And if that’s what you want, why dance around the point, gesturing at sophistication? Be a straight-shooter and listen to some Elliott Smith or something.