|Vex'd - Degenerate (2005)|
As of late I have been throwing the word "degenerate" around a lot in regards to certain music and culture, and so as I browsed through my music collection for inspiration for what album to write about next, it seemed like the Vex'd album of the same name would be the perfect fit.
Music that embraces the "degenerate" culture I have railed against - but does it have its own merit? After a comment I received on my My Bloody Valentine - Loveless review, it made me wonder whether I have been reviewing the music itself or the culture the music came from. Of course, it is hard to separate the two, as music for as long as it has existed, has been infused with culture to a certain degree.
Vex'd represents the electronic and early dubstep culture, with hard-hitting, almost atonal basslines and harsh, rigid drums that have been written on a computer and copy and pasted over and over in a loop. No sign of organic life on this album, save for some ethereal synth pads that give the harsh computer music some depth.
But is there a merit to this style of music and culture? I gave Loveless a 0.0 because not only was it "aural dogshit," as I harshly, but rightfully said, but because it also represent a culture I disliked - a weak and degenerate culture, where one gazes at one's shoes rather than looking up at the sky for the answers to life's difficult questions. A subverting, emasculating culture in where men are urged to dress and act effeminately. As such, a perverted culture. Could music that exists in this culture be rated higher than 0.0? Yes, it is possible, and the reason Loveless was rated so low is because the music itself is bad, more than anything. But I digress..
The Degenerate represents another degenerate culture - one that embraces darker aspects of life such as drug taking. Am I a righteous man myself? Absolutely not, and none of us are without fault - but if nobody takes a stand against degeneracy then it only stands to grow. Like bacteria, if it is not destroyed it will spread further.
However, the Vex'd album is not as "degenerate" as its album title suggests and in that regard it does not meet its own objective standards. So how do I rate it - good, or bad? It's good because the music itself is better than it's title suggests it should be, it transcends the culture it has grown in. It's bad because it does not live up to the standards of that culture and sells itself short from that angle.
The track "Cold" is the perfect example of this. A menacing bassline seemingly taken from a complete song, but no drumloop exists, rather an airy, melacholy synth haunts the listener in the background, juxtaposed to the . Cold indeed, the music conjurs imagery of broken electronics in a disused arctic military base, the unfinished diaries of a fragmented, skeletal ghost of a figure who sits in the captain's quarters. A forgotten crew left to freeze to death in some God forsaken place. Shreds of disfigured dub and reggae serve only to emphasise the cold robotics of the music, rather than bring the listener to the heat of Kingston.
As far as dubstep standards go, the production is outdated now and is outmastered, even out-degenerated by music such as Skrillex. But Vex'd have made music better than Skrillex, as while it is suitable for a dark, dingy dancefloor somewhere in a broken part of this confused world, it also has a private listening quality in its icy, hypnotic soundscapes. While most dubstep is disposable and instantly forgettable, Vex'd have created an album that has a memorable quality, with focus more on musicianship than technical standards.