Being Ridden

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Rjyan Kidwell marshaled all of his resources for Being Ridden, a full-length (his fourth in under three years) that reflects nearly all of his scattered musical impulses: the masterful abstract electronic production of his early IDM work, the old-school rap delivery and goofy braggadocio of Tall, Dark & Handcuffed, and the soul-searching aggro-emo nihilism that would come further to the forefront later that year on Maryland Mansions. The result is arguably the most representative entry in an obsessively unpredictable and disparate catalog, down to the typically droll and entirely appropriate punning title (as the liners spell out, "being ridden" means "full of ghosts"), but it's also something that Cex hasn't quite managed to pull off before or since: a pop album, albeit a highly unorthodox one. It doesn't all work, to be sure, but on standouts like the frustrated state-of-the-artist manifesto "Not Working," peppy anti-emo anthem "Earth-Shaking Event," and touching grade-school memoir "The Marriage," Kidwell ponies up competent choruses and intriguing electro-organic arrangements to surround his smart, self-oriented verbiage. The more downcast material, like the pensive "Cex at Arm's Length" and dub-folk dirge "You Kiss Like You're Dead," can get worrisomely brooding, though on balance these songs are at least as affecting as they are whiny. And the hip-hop beats (courtesy of Venetian Snares) and absurdist sex boasts of "Stamina" offer a burst of inspired levity before the album's second half descends into an odd mixture of folktronic instrumental prettiness and tortured but curiously soulful darkness. All told, it's a particularly accomplished if not wholly cohesive outing from a generally fascinating auteur.

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