Since their inception in the early 2000s, Brian DeGraw has handled much of the electronic wizardry, programming, and demented synthesizer manipulation for N.Y.C. art-rock institution Gang Gang Dance. Existing as part of a long-standing community of experimentally minded musicians and cultural collage artists, DeGraw, along with his Gang Gang compatriots, came up playing shows and exchanging ideas with Black Dice, Excepter, Animal Collective, and other boundary-pushing artists. Though he's done lots of behind the scenes work, remixes, and other production-oriented music under his own name, Sum/One is an official debut for DeGraw, as he operates under the roundabout monogram bEEdEEgEE for this collection of spectral electronica, mind-altering beats, and mutant pop. Breaking out solo usually entails unexpected strikes at songwriting from voices relegated to the shadows of their parent bands, but with Sum/One, it's DeGraw's lovingly freaked production that's the star of the show. Rather than even opting to sing over his frantic beats, DeGraw instead enlists guest vocalists for most of the songs where singing is the focus. GGD siren Lizzi Bougatsos adds distant, pitch-shifted vocal hooks to the soft house pads and noisy buzzing synths of "Like Rain Man," Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor sings on the drifty pop standout "(F.U.T.D.) Time of Waste," and other tracks feature guest vocals from Douglas Armour and CSS' Lovefoxxx. The nine tracks are a restless, anxious organism that never stops moving but is presented with such deft control that the flow is organic and never feels nervous or unorganized. Phantom-summoning flute samples and glowing ambient tones are juxtaposed throughout Sum/One with ugly, plastic, pre-set keyboard tones, banging club beats, and jarring samples. DeGraw pours so many reference points and so much melodic inspiration into the songs that they max out and become a unified whole before there's a chance to really dissect his intentions. With the same odd combination of warmth and sonic puppeteering that made Gang Gang Dance's 2011 effort Eye Contact simultaneously disorienting and danceable, DeGraw crafts Sum/One from a calculated but unassuming viewpoint, and one that appears reckless at first glance, but it's definitely not. The productions here channel the film noir romanticism of '80s acts like Kate Bush, Art of Noise, or the Blue Nile, samples of obscure international sounds, unknown hardcore 7"s melting into each other, and all breeds of strange electronics setting atop club beats still at least ten years ahead of their time for a 2013 release. It's a stellar first effort, though hardly a debut from some lucky newcomer. DeGraw's unique production mastery finds some of its most vivid articulation on Sum/One, and sinks its hooks in effortlessly despite the fearless weirdness that comes through on every track.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas