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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: “Beeps and Smudges” by Doctor Popular

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The good doctor with a PHD in popularity is back, this time carrying with him a 12-track album made entirely with software on Apple iPads and iPhones.

albumcoverDoctor Popular, previously known as Drown Radio, has been a “chip tune” and “nerdcore” artist for many years now. His experience is clearly shown in the musical maturity that he has shown in this album. Chip tune is a form of electronic music which involves, amongst other things, the physical manipulation of the electric circuits of any device which can produce sound. This creates new sounds an instruments. Nerdcore is, pretty much, rap for geeks.

One of Doc Pop’s first releases was a joint EP with another chip tune artist, the Atomic Brothers. Back then he was producing occasionally amusing electronic music, with a sound which, usually, only hardcore fans of the style would fully appreciate. Also producing non-electronic tracks, such as “California Slowly Sinking Into the Ocean’s Deep Abyss”, and music for other artists, including nerdcore rapper Beefy, Doctor Popular has been a prolific producer of music.

Over two years have passed since Doc Pop’s last LP release, Me Geek Pretty One Day. This latest release, Beeps and Smudges, is a considerable change in style from Me Geek Pretty, ditching the geeky humour and references to Dungeons and Dragons and lolCats in favour of pop songs about love and songs which are slower and sometimes sadder.

The sound of the music has also changed, with much of the harsh beat bashing that Doctor Popular has used in previous releases not featuring. The change is, however, not absolute. Sounds reminiscent of 8- and 16-bit DOS games like Commander Keen still feature in many of the songs.

Despite the change to a more accessible, mainstream style, the album opens with a short track which is very typical of a chip tune album. Track two, however, is one which could easily make it on to radio. “Möbius Strip Tease”, a song about love with the line “I feel like I’m walking on the möbius strip”, is the perfect nerdy pop song, as is track three, “Spider”.

Beeps and Smudges doesn’t feature any standout nerdcore pieces, like “lolCats” on Me Geek Pretty, however the overall calibre and refinement of this often minimalist album makes it well worth a listen.

I would give this album a 10 out of 10 if it weren’t for one track, made in collaboration with Unwoman, called “Get To Know You”. The style of the piece jars with the rest of the album and, although having a good beat, the song just isn’t as refined as the other tracks on the album. I give this album a nine out of 10.

The album streams for free on Doctor Popular’s Bandcamp page, You can also buy a digital copy of the album for just $1 or, for a limited time, a physical copy for $10, which will ship on or around December 18.


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