Super_Collider is a collaboration between the talented English producers Cristian Vogel and Jamie Lidell, both of whose solo IDM efforts have brought them well-deserved attention. Their latest offering together, Raw Digits, is an unashamed and obscene sex record whose carnality is shrouded in abstract references to R&B, trip-hop, glitch, and drum ?n bass. Following their 1999 debut Head On, which featured the single "Darn (Cold Way O? Lovin)," the duo continues to tinker with the strange alchemy that allows soul music and fucked-up rhythms to gel successfully.
Raw Digits brings Prince and Squarepusher equally to mind. The vocals suggest a genuine corporeal yearning within complicated mazes of electronic percussion. Vogel and Lidell?s sense of rhythm is impeccable, incorporating risky edits without ever losing an air of effortlessness. This is something few in electronic music or anywhere else can do; Michael Jackson may be the most successful archetype. But the heavy production never drowns out Lidell?s voice, which is powerful enough to demand attention as the centerpiece of most songs. Many people may disagree, but I do not believe that the vocals here are just source material, chopped up and re-arranged like samples. There is a Prince-like perfection in the way that the singing interacts with the instruments. Super_Collider clearly understand that their vocals need not be ruptured just because their music is experimental. On the contrary, the tension is an ideal complement. There are instances where the voice is disconnected, like ?Soily Soul,? on which the words are inaudible and disguised with reverb, but I would hesitate to define this as a unique product of the edginess of IDM. In fact, the track?s approach to vocals is distinctly reminiscent of dub.
In a sense, Super_Collider are similar to His Name is Alive, who make blues or soul in an environment of obsessively good production. But where Warren Defever and Lovetta Pippen tend to obey the rules of R&B and soul music, Super_Collider move further into peripheries of structure and rhythm. Imagine Richard D. James hijacking Defever?s Livonia studio and doing very mischievous things to his songs. The lead-off track, ?Messagesacomin,? is a grease-soaked masterpiece of urgent singing and breakbeat rhythms punctuated by Autechre-esque bleeps and meltdowns. It might even be danceable for those who can anticipate the tempo changes and stark edits.
As unquestionably impressive as the rhythm et al is, though, after multiple listens the singing remains the most vital and memorable aspect of Raw Digits, and may be the most convincing reason for you to make a point of hearing it. Like their predecessors from Stevie Wonder to Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles, Super_Collider use soul as conveyed through the human voice as a legitimate complement to experimental production. With both elements executed so earnestly and so well, Raw Digits is indeed worth spending a few evenings with.
By Ben Tausig