HDJ Tom
Taste

Inflatabl
2003
B



y roommate Zach loves food with such vigor that, when we eat together, I feel like a ghost next to him. He frequently tells me that he wishes he were in Ancient Rome, because they puked half-way through their meals so that they could eat more. Never hesitant to ask (or grab) for samples when at a restaurant with others, the gluttonous look on his face as he goes through each platter is a priceless one. You get the feeling that denying him food would be akin to a crime to humanity. HDJ Tom (or Tamas Szoke of the Hungarian pop duo Golden Army) uses a similar food metaphor for his album Taste, and the speed of Zach's eating could explain the album.

Taste uses both IDM and glitch to devour as many possible genres of electronic music as possible. Although mimicking genres through IDM and glitch doesn't incite the same interest as it did 5 years ago, HDJ Tom counters this with an extremely short attention-span—characterized by intense electronic percussive work-outs and a shifting of compositions on the fly—leading to unpredictable turns in many of his songs.

Squarepusher is, of course, the obvious jumping off point for this type of IDM. His development within IDM toward jazz isn’t mere coincidence, as the repetition of a motif, coupled with explorations within drum programming (or soloing) is a typical format used by both genres. Szoke upholds and quickly destroys the motif/experiment distinction with his works, placing not only the drumming into late drill'n'bass free-form, but at times all elements, including underlying synths and DSPed melodies. The songs, thereby become surprisingly loose, and very often sound on the verge of falling apart at the seams. This requires more from the listener, as these disparate elements force reconciliation with the disorienting freeform. Luckily, the play involved with disparate elements dissolves the over-planned sterility, a condition that oft plagues IDM.

With "Sandwich Sampler," Szoke employs the practically cliché processed drumming (harkening back to Roni Size), and places it into a poky track, subverting the tension usually found in drum ‘n’ bass. Instead of slow melodies, the track's languid rhythm uses a stutter-start to play with explosive d’n’b drums (and expected tempo). Despite the playfulness, the song develops in no real form, and seemingly goes in circles. It’s content with adjusting slightly, but provides no real propulsion throughout.

The greatest element of Taste could be its biggest flaw: the continuous morphing and editing provides no justification, over time, to its aesthetic. The repetition found within the glitch genre allows an electro-heartbeat to stabilize the layering and reworking. It's this groove that humanizes the explorations of technological burnout. When this groove is properly followed, like "Net Wt. 284g," the song carries a weight that can fuse direct drumming with dub-distant synths to incredibly emotive effects (like Farben’s "Live at the Sahara Tahoe, 1973" without the disco nouveau).

After spending hours with Taste, it’s obvious that the album lends itself to headphones. This album pushes the auditory spectrum and becomes even more direct with a nice speaker set-up. For the already adventurous listener, this album borders on pastiche, yet refuses to deliver saccharine electronica. Instead, the work is subtle and can at times impress, despite the loyalty to IDM and glitch limitations.


Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-01-26

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