Boy Eats Drum Machine

Hoop + Wire

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

Boy Eats Drum Machine is a band name that's open to myriad Rorschachian interpretations, but almost anything you imagine will come up short. One-man band Jon Ragel is the only player in BMDM, and while a drum machine and sampled percussion feature heavily into his compositional mash-ups, his music doesn't sound like your average project by a bedroom studio auteur. Ragel has a knack for a fine pop hook, and while most of the music here, except for his sax noodling and vocals, is generated by computers and synthesizers, there's nothing sterile or synthetic about the music. His synthetic bass sounds are thick and warm, the drum samples sound organic without any high-end hiss or crackle, and his congenial vocals are a blend of Bryan Ferry's romantic croon, Lou Reed's jittery energy, and Harry Nilsson's effortless way with a melody. Ragel's arrangements cover a lot of ground, and the fact they they've been primarily pieced together using samples is impressive. The seams never show, and each tune occupies its own distinctive sonic space. "Constellation" is a dark love song that rides an easy, loping disco beat with a hint of calypso/soca in the assorted congas and bongos that float through the mix. Stop-and-start rhythm accents add to the tune's bouncy feel. A big, chunky bassline introduces "Lolo Forest." It has hints of mid-period Roxy Music with its clanging guitar chords, mystic late-night organ, and Ragel's melancholy vocal. "We Make Our Own Light" adds dub effects more common to reggae than an R&B tune that straddles the late '60s and early '70s with doo wop vocals and a faux-gospel chorus. Ragel's honking baritone sax introduces "New Mexico to Old Arizona." A cheap wah-wah keyboard sound, a chorus of sampled female voices, odd rhythmic stops and starts, and a vaguely countrified melody bring to mind Lee Hazlewood at his most cryptic. The only thing here that really smacks of electronic overkill is the lone instrumental, "ABQ," an odd musique concrète-meets-hip-hop piece full of noises that sound like gun shots, synthetic snare drum crashes, and distorted choral samples. All else is mellow and upbeat, even when dealing with shattered romance and looming depression.

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