Rise of the Speedmen- Introduction
By Michael Parme 6.14.5
The introduction is by its very nature both pithy and incomplete. It is cursory and lacking precision, designed to merely whet the audience's appetite for what comes afterward. And, it is with this understanding of the introduction, that Rise of the Speedmen's first album is appropriately titled Introduction .
Rise of the Speedmen, the one man band brainchild of San Diego native Gene Padigos, is a creature with an equal number of functional and gangrene limbs. Ultimately, this first release by the Speedman succeeds as many times as it flounders. Though there is not a single track that fails, only a handful escape from the doldrums of repetition.
Padigos' sound is dark and melancholy. Throughout the record, he takes few chances, rarely changing key and working within the confines of typical pop time signatures. Introduction is sonically a very focused work, and the artist maintains a constant tone that adds to the record's cohesion. However, when Introduction is not capturing its audience with its detached brand of melancholic electro-pop, it is treading water.
Many of the album's efforts are substantial because they show a genuine proficiency with regard to the artist's ability to fuse electronic rhythms, keyboards and effects with indie-style guitars. Padigos has a knack for creating arrangements that are both subtle yet effective. Though Introduction shies away from climactic crescendos, bridges and chorus hooks, it stays compelling enough to carry the listener through to the end.
While there are certainly enough golden apples along the way to make the journey worthwhile, Padigos' songs tend to run together. This is attributable primarily to the fact that his beats frequently lose momentum as his songs sulk along. Most of the tracks on Introduction proceed with an initial drum loop that is repeated uninterrupted until the song ends. Though his rhythms are each independently interesting, they offer little variety when played back to back.
This repetition is not restricted to Introduction 's rhythms. The cool vocal chants that lace almost all of the album's tracks also increase the audience's sensitivity to the feelings of déjà vu the album elicits. The lyrics, with their intentionally musty delivery, are too inconsequential to compensate for this condition. Consequently, it is not uncommon for two tracks on Introduction to bleed together.
Despite its drawbacks, Rise of the Speedmen's freshman effort finds its stride on songs like "Rewind," "Journey into Sound," and "You Keep it Hidden." The success of such tracks is primarily due to the balance Padigos finds between his guitars and his electronic elements. Introduction is most successful when Padigos' manipulation of beats, synthesizers and effects is the primary focus. Though his more guitar-focused tracks definitely display his competence and ability as a multi-talented songwriter, revealing generally interesting guitar interplay, they often detract attention from the still more fascinating electronic elements.
The most rewarding track on Introduction is without a doubt "I Hear a Symphony." Employing aggressive drum samples akin to DJ Shadow or Four Tet, soft keyboard interplay and dirty ethereal guitars, the song is both haunting and beautiful. If this is the measure of what Rise of the Speedmen is capable of, we should all be eager to hear what lies beyond Introduction .
Reviewed by Michael Parme