here are two ways you can critique your friends’ art. You can be overly harsh, attempting to elicit the finest from them in the future, or you can marvel at the ability of their work in relation to your own ability. While Cex isn’t a friend of mine, through a variety of email, website reading, music listening, and personal contact; I feel I know him better than any other musician out there. But maybe that’s his ploy. On the first song of Cex’s new EP for 555 Recordings a computer voice intones, “Hello, this is Cex...” A few seconds after this voice comes on, the real Cex bumps in and puts an end to the voice while giving thanks to his friends and the listener. For an electronic music act, this is odd; but seemingly for Cex, this has become the crux of his recordings lately. The problem of humanizing the relatively computerized and emotionless electronic scene that he works within has become an interesting auxiliary to everything that he has produced since his Role Model LP.
From readings of his personal website, one can tell that Cex is conflicted. For better or worse, he airs out his dirty laundry to the world in an attempt to make sense of it for himself. He wants to put out the best quality product for the consumer, but he also realizes that he isn’t part of the traditional aesthetic of electronic-age anonymity. It surely helps that he also records for one of the Tigerbeat6 label. The attention that Tigerbeat6 has been getting lately has made it nearly the equal of London-based Warp Records in mention of electronic music, if not in record sales. However, Starship Galatica was recorded before Tigerbeat6 underwent transformation from small label to “the next big thing.”
On tracks like “Hi-Scores,” this becomes apparent. Approaching a hip hop skit found on a Snoop Doggy Dogg record, “Hi-Scores” illustrates the general nerdiness of Cex, but also the humor that he has, which is not often found on most “experimental” recordings. In fact, Starship Galactica is closer to hip-hop in its influence than Kraftwerk. Discounting the two skits on the record, only “Tattoo of a Barcode” doesn’t feature beats that are hip-hop based. This is in line with his previous efforts, however. The change in his sound for this release from the Role Model LP is the absence of the focus on melodic constructions. In cases when Cex tries to develop a melody, it remains somewhat buried in the mix underneath the bass heavy beats. One of the main drawing points, for me, on Role Model was the fact that within the context of changing beats, Cex could carve an interesting and affecting melody along with it, helping to carry the weight of the song. With Starship Galactica, though, the songs feel long for the very reason that the songs on Role Model do not. The melody is lacking and this change is quite apparent. To add onto the lessening of melody on this release, it seems as though Cex has decided not to add much to the beats in terms of variety. When I listen to Role Model again, I notice that maybe there wasn’t as much change in the beats as I first thought, primarily because the melody drew attention away from this fact. Without such a diversion, Role Model seems contrived and lacks inspiration.
As rumor has it, Cex has decided to quit school and devote his attention to music making. School will always be there and a creative writing degree, which he is seeking, doesn’t mean much in the industry of writing, if he chooses to take that path later. In light of his success on tour, I suppose that Cex has realized that this may be the best time to attempt to focus on making his break out record to make a living out of his music. Let’s hope that he does devote the time to make that record a leap from the emotive melody and the innovative beats of Role Model, instead of the uninspired hip-hop references on Starship Galactica.