Dorian Concept The Nature of Imitation

[Brainfeeder; 2018]

Styles: electronica, funk, dance
Others: Red Bull, Adult Swim

Because the dynamics are obvious but the climaxes aren’t, it’s safe to say Oliver Johnson’s approach to pacing and arrangement is more tantric than hedonic. With The Nature of Imitation, Johnson’s latest release under the Dorian Concept name, the Austrian producer’s cyberfunk noodling is dizzying and mandarin, yet the payoff is often subdued or withheld. “E13” shifts, stutters, and glitches between immaculately produced dance synth lines, waxing and waning without ever finding a zenith. On album standout “J Buyers,” Johnson spends the first minute and 35 seconds on the song’s buildup; when the release comes, he’s still able to sustain that energy (replete with its own de/crescendos) for another three minutes. In short, he shows us what an id can do without submitting to it.

But that doesn’t mean the album tries to be didactic; it’s too eccentric for that. Even at its petulant nadirs like “A Mother’s Lament” and “Dishwater,” there’s an unassailable weirdness throughout: the lo-fi aesthetic of the former and the susurrus of feedback underpinning the latter. It sounds as if Johnson is trying to make a disruptive electronica record, one that invites us to dance while challenging us if we actually do.

On the whole, Imitation is self-consciously danceable and overconfidently messy. It’s restless music for restless people, and while it entertains plenty for stretches, it doesn’t quite hold the focus that a 40-minute collection of songs demands. Like so many artists of this stripe, Dorian Concept recognizes how deficient his audience’s attention is, but tests it all the same. And it’s admirable, to say the least.

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