EDISON Invents Himself : All The Information At Hand (album review)

A new album dropped today that you probably didn’t hear about.  It probably wasn’t something that you’ve been waiting for by one of your “favorite artists” and it probably won’t be making too big of a splash before the year is out.  Although I can easily see it gaining steam throughout the next year or so, that may not even be the case either.  In fact, this may become one of those albums that many people don’t discover until years from now, after the artist is already 3 or 4 albums deep and until a new critical appreciation for their work prompts “new fans” to dig through the back catalog to hear what the artists debut sounded like in 2009.  No matter how it happens, I’ve become convinced over the last week that there’s a new cat on the electronic scene who deserves your attention, knows it, and isn’t going anywhere until he gets it.

EDISON is based out of San Francisco and, even with the over saturation of quality electronic artists in the Bay, he’s still managing to set himself apart as a force in that circuit.  Part of what keeps me interested in the electronic musicians and producers that I love the most is their constant hunger for innovation and an unquenchable thirst to push their crafts, style, and sounds into new directions and possibilities.  It’s that need to always seek new levels of what else is possible.  From the little that I’ve witnessed from Edison so far, I have swiftly and wholehearted become interested in seeing where his desires and focus continue to take him in the future.  Unfortunately, my whacked-out,schizophrenic multi-focus is making it difficult for me to express all of the information that I’d like to at once and in a coherent fashion that would be more easily digestible.  Most likely, the place for us to begin is by acquainting you with the artist through the same means that I was introduced.  That method is by viewing this video.

Video Details:

all one shot sounds…
no loops running….
64 buttons
64 noises….
shot on 2 HD cameras, 720p, 1 live take…..
with audio captured right to camera…..

Some of you have seen a Monome device before and some of you haven’t.  If you haven’t, then your mind is probably being blown by the prospects of this newfangled technology.  If you have, it’s still likely that you’ve never seen anyone operate one with such speed and proficiency and, consequently, your mind is being blown by the prospects of this newfangled technology.  Monome is, esentially, a 2-person operation that designs “adaptable, minimalist interfaces in the catskills“.  These sequencers are produced in limited runs and are made to connect directly to laptops and other devices via USB.  I don’t believe that the early Monome devices that I remember seeing had an led light up function.  Over time, the popularity of the interfaces has grown and the technology has improved.  Artists like Daedelus (see our 2007 interview) have helped to pioneer using the Monome/laptop set-up for live performance, as well as to influence advances in, creator, Brian Crabtree‘s original design.  Due to the demand, which grows more and more each year, Monome also offers another limited production run of kits for their original, 64 button 40h model.  The one that Edison is playing above is a Monome device that he constructed by using a modified lunchbox.  Yep… that’s a lunchbox.

The Monome has become almost synonymous with Daedelus, due to his showcasing of the contraptions so effectively over the last couple of years.  Edison seems to be pushing the use of Monomes into new directions, himself, and both of the artists were recently invited to perform and speak about their production/performance techniques at a Monome related conference held at Princeton University.  Beyond the obvious applications in live performance, Edison has relied heavily on his converted lunchbox to produce his debut album, All the Information at Hand.  Beyond the obvious reference to the device in its title, the album’s cover art actually features a graphic of a Monome sequencer button layout.

The track featured in the video above is called “Tonka Truck” and a slightly different/longer version is what leads off All the Information at Hand.  I think that it was a wise approach to start the album off by kicking in the door with a more aggressive track, before heading into some of the more ambient and relaxed directions.  Many of my favorite classics also begin same way, including RJD2‘s Dead Ringer (with “The Horror”) and DJ Shadow‘s Entroducing (although “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” is technically track #2).  After listening to the album for a couple of days, I played “Tonka Truck” for our writer OG.  I only told him that it was a new album that would be coming out and purposely didn’t disclose who the artist was.  After it was clear that he was enjoying it, he asked, “Is this a new EL-P album?“.  I shook my head.  “Who is this, RJD2?”  Nope.  “Amon Tobin?”  His response was helpful because, as he took each stab at guessing, it made me realize certain elements that he was picking up on and that the beat did sound like something that could easily be found on an album like Fantastic Damage.  The song “One Mess After Another, Please“, is also reminiscent of the work by the Def Jux label owner, with it’s blown-out speaker bass and siren samples.

Introductions and Latitude” furthers the hip hop sound, with it’s DJ Shadow-style beat and layering.  “Chopping At the Crab (Apple) Tree” features the same type of heavy beat drops, but it sounds like something which could appear on more laid back Squarepusher releases, such as Budakhan Mindphone.  At other times, the song even features tinges of Buckethead material, like a cross between the work on Colma and Bermuda Triangle.  “The Surface, and Under” and “Little Voices” are 2 examples of songs which truly highlight Edison‘s attention to subtle details.  My speakers were completely fucked and I recently sent my laptop out to have them fixed.  The light crackles and pops that come through on the “The Surface, and Under” had me worried, until I realized that they were each perfectly in sync and that it wasn’t from computer problems.  “Little Voices“, on the other hand, has Edison slightly warping the melody at points, giving off the impression that your batteries may be dying in a music player.

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The more that I listen to All the Information at Hand, the more that I enjoy it.  Although each song can easily be viewed as it’s own individual entity, this album really works best for me as a complete piece.  I’ve had it running all of the way through repeatedly and the transitions are really smooth.  Each time it circles through, another song seems to pop out at me.  Last time it was the song “The Great Houdini’s Magic Computer“.  This time, it is “How We Got Here and Now“, a track with Daedelus-esque vocal samples and the kind of Richard D. James album melody that feels like it is literally breathing light.  The biggest, and possibly only, mis-step for me is “Ditch Dig Anthem” a track intended to showcases Edison‘s rap crew, PaperVehicle.  It seems like every beat maker seems to have a “crew” and feels the need to feature them rapping on an otherwise instrumental effort.  I wasn’t impressed with the cadence or flow of PaperVehicle and they seem fairly generic, as far as the back pack rap scene is concerned.  Overtime, however, the song has grown on me a bit.  Not to the point of enjoyment, necessarily, but to the point where it doesn’t seem overly out of place or disjointed on the album and to where I can appreciate the beat.  EL-P was praised for his production and attacked for his flow for years, until he provided irrefutable evidence of his quality as an overall performer.  This may be the case with Edison as well, but I’ll wait and see.  For now, I look forward to the beats but am less than interested in the vocal accompaniment.

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Over the years, Edison has shared stages with Cage (Def Jux), The Alkoholiks, and Alpha Pup artists like Daedelus and Existero.  Taking this into account, the hip hop aspects of his sound are not surprising.  Other artists like RJD2 and Blockhead were primarily known as beatmakers for rap artists, until they dropped debut solo efforts that really highlighted what they were capable of.  I feel that All The Information At Hand could become another Dead Ringer or Music By Cavelight for Edison, and will truly open doors and bring him the respect that artists are fighting for everywhere.  Hopefully, it will also bring attention to the Egadz! run Kid Without Radio label that is releasing it.  For the last 2 decades, labels like WARP and Ninja Tune have dominated the electronic genre with some of the best music being produced by some of the most enduring artists.  I’m always happy to see smaller labels like Daly City Records and this one proving that the genre is growing and shining the light on artists that we may otherwise never find out about.  As for Edison and his debut, my feelings are simple.  Most of us probably don’t have the two-hundred grand plus to shell out to Richard Branson for the chance at some theoretical astronomical journey, but I strongly recommend hopping on board the rocket, which is Edison‘s career, before it takes off.  From the first listen of All The Information At Hand, the word “PROMISE!” kept jumping out at me.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate what Edison has already created, because I think it’s great, It’s just that I can’t wait to hear where else he’s going to take it in the future.  There is little that excites me more about music than knowing that I’ve just come across an artist that is only at the very beginning of an illustrious catalog.  It’s like the beginning of a new relationship or the start of a film.  It’s anticipation and excitement.  It’s only a matter of time.  For now, we have something to look forward to and something thoroughly enjoyable in the meantime.

This bonus video short of Edison and his song  “Blue & Yellow” is from 2008 and was directed by Mike Landry.

Please Use the Following Edison-related Links for More Info:

Purchase All The Information At Hand HERE
Edison on Myspace
Edison on Vimeo

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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