Working under the Doldrums moniker, Montreal producer/songwriter Arick Woodhead produced an amazing debut with 2013's Lesser Evil. The record stitched together beautifully damaged samples, brittle electronics, and Woodhead's distant, echo-drenched howls into a distinctive breed of melodic electro pop that mirrored the best aspects of everyone from Jane's Addiction to Black Dice without straying too far from the style of a camp of friends and indie contemporaries that included Grimes, Blue Hawaii, and Purity Ring. While the tones of Lesser Evil were tense, lovelorn, and downtrodden in a druggy, hypnotic way, 2015 follow-up The Air Conditioned Nightmare takes a turn toward themes of paranoia and desperation, often presented in a far more aggressive manner than earlier works. This newfound pushiness is present on the pounding rhythms of album-opener "Hotfoot," a driving slab of clubby electro pop heavy on distorted synth bass, a sinister vocal performance from Woodhead and general production going in the direction of '90s alt-industrial figureheads like My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult or Nine Inch Nails. These darker alt-club sounds resurface throughout the record, as with the funky churn of "Industry City" or the claustrophobic "My Friend Simjen," which channels Ministry in their prime with its web of screamy samples and burning techno rhythms. The more soft-focused electronic pop Doldrums cultivated on Lesser Evil is refined in the rolling synth pop melodies of "Funeral for Lightning" and in the gorgeously fragile and fragmented pop of album-closer "Closer 2 U." While The Air Conditioned Nightmare represents growth for Doldrums, the caustic and sometimes overwhelming directions the album goes in are more difficult to unravel than the often blissful landscapes laid out in earlier songs. That said, deeper digging reveals Woodhead taking hold of the confusion, conflict, and ugliness of the record and sculpting it into something compelling in a voice all his own.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas