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Reviews

Silicon
Personal Computer Josh Gray , August 12th, 2015 11:53

As both the artist and album's name might suggest, Silicon's Personal Computer does not feel particularly organic or home-grown. It doesn't even particularly feel like the work of a human being. This is the kind of music that Skynet would replace your entire iTunes library with after becoming sentient and hacking into the Apple mainframe. This is the kind of music Hot Chip's keyboards secretly make while the band are necking pints down their local. This is not AOR, its AI-R, a warped digital reinvention of the soul genre by half-cracked Kiwi Kody Nielson. Nielson has a history of producing the kind of leftfield music only achievable if you live on a rock four hours flight away from any other kind of civilisation, first with his brother Ruben Nielson (now frontman of Unknown Mortal Orchestra) as The Mint Chicks, and later under the pseudonym Opossum, when he took on the impossible task of trying to emulate fellow New Zealander and bizarre popster extraordinaire Connan Mockasin.

There are still heavy traces of Mockasin's intimate weirdness in Nielson's DNA but, while the Forever Dolphin Love creator's sound conjures up memories of sunset beaches and half-forgotten holidays, Silicon evokes memories of whole weeks spent indoors and lost battles with trolls on Tom Vek music video comment threads. Any randomly selected snippet, from the suitably tinny guitar bounce of 'Cellphone' to the synth shock of single 'God Emoji', could accompany either your email alert or Windows 10's wonderful new "something happened" error message. But despite producing more bleeps and whirs than the TARDIS running on a dial-up connection, Personal Computer never feels soulless. Album highlight 'Burning Sugar' sounds marginally like a more scatterbrained version of Frank Ocean's 'Sweet Life', while 'Love Peace' evokes a love letter lost in your junk mail folder.

The main shortcoming of this album is its disappointing runtime. With only ten tracks, half of which are under three minutes long, Personal Computer feels just a few bits short of a byte and you may well find yourself moving straight onto Unknown Mortal Orchestra's back catalogue just to get some closure. There are also a few songs that are hard to love: the hyperactive vocal sample used in 'Little Dancing Baby', for example, could give many a PC musician a run for their money in a contest of irritation inducement. On the whole, however, it feels like Nielson has achieved what he set out to accomplish over the course of this album: a symbiosis of new-fangled technology with old-fangled passion. Personal Computer is chock full of fibre-optic feelings, and Silicon manages to convey more straight-up soul using nothing but his laptop than many multi-member collectives manage over their whole careers.

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