There’s a lot of talk in the electronic music cult about changing styles and the artists doing it; it’s common, for example, for a D&B producer to dabble in techno or a dubstep artist to dip a toe into bass house. It’s just different tempos and levels of syncopation at the end of the day, isn’t it? Music culture is also no stranger to the strange EDM/pop or EDM/hip hop crossover. Experimental electronic artists go a little deeper into jazz, classical and other fringe genres, but they are still identifiable as experimental. BC-based artists, jRadx, it’s not even that, really.
With hip hop beats leading to vaporwave synths, breaks suspended in the air, robot sounds making up song structures, and industrial loops coupled with rap (and that’s just two tracks), the jRadx latest album power of the desert is difficult to unpack, but in the best possible way. Like one of those creepy photos where your mind spins over and over again trying to make sense of the random parts and it never quite fits, there’s a twisted beauty to jRadx’s work. Because it is such a patchwork, he is perhaps the first artist to successfully go completely genderless by using all genres.
Don’t get me wrong: jRadx’s work, while musically Dadaist, is very listenable. Even dancing. He began learning about music and production while studying communications at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. The media and their current place in society (or the fact that they are almost East society today) is one of the things that inspires jRadx both philosophically and musically. His early pre-self-produced works, dubbed on his SoundCloud as “Early Tapes,” are lyric-style social commentary raps over existing beats.
Whereas in power of the desert jRadx’s fundamental influence is difficult to discern, these early raps and his later productions were obviously inspired by hip hop. His first three albums, all released over a four-month period last year, have a slightly stronger hip hop core than most listeners will be able to follow. final boss has a load of Wu Tang-like rhythms and kung fu sampling while Bedlam in basement sees a stretch into more EDM territory with industrial beats, fewer vocals and lots of experimental sound design. phoncore starts to show jRadx’s need to play around with different sounds and genres, but in doing so it lands squarely in the experimental electronics category and isn’t quite the glorious, genreless mess that is Power of the desert.
We’ve danced around it for 400 words, but now it’s time to get into this glorious mess. power of the desert is defining for jRadx for a number of reasons, most of which is that it’s the first consistent discovery of what his style is and that he can be in one place. The previous three albums were written over a long period of time as jRadx found that style, and now it’s on display for people to listen to, feel, and scratch their heads. And, of course, for critics to try (and fail) to separate and categorize.
From the peaceful ‘Intro’ to the fictional industrial ‘Maybe’, to the Hudson Mohawke/Daft Punk hybrid that’s ‘AAAAAAA’ to the tribal/folk-inspired ‘Digital Music Therapy’, to the track most structured dance routine on the album ironically called “Free Form,” power of the desert it’s all styles and no styles at once, which makes it simply jRadx’s style, tied only to the passion and emotion of his creative play. There’s a track on this album that fans of all genres will love, and also one that will make those same fans very nervous. That’s what makes it good art, and that’s what makes it truly genderless.
From power of the desert, jRadx has already released a track called “Megatron” which is loosely inspired by Goa, a hybrid experimental/industrial track called “Optimus Prime”, a sort of lazy (not trap) hip hop track reminiscent of his old spoken word work and a track drum & bass titled (for now) “Unknown” whose rhythm is entirely composed of beatboxing. How can we follow this style? We can’t, and that’s the point.
jRadx is a study and perhaps the answer to what happens when an artist is completely self-taught and online, does exactly what they want and is both uninfluenced by any trend and influenced by everything. There’s no way to predict where it will go next, and honestly, no one can really pin it down to one genre. In this way he is truly a free artist. You can’t hold an artist to a genre if there is no genre, and with power of the desert and all of his past and future works, jRadx is a good reminder that we shouldn’t have done this in the first place.
power of the desert and jRadx’s other albums can be streamed on Bandcamp and Spotify, but it seems the most up-to-date source of his mad scientist vibes is still SoundCloud. Check out his YouTube channel for more chaotic neutral vibes in A/V form.