British-born John Cohen (aka Dead Fader) mines his country's rich IDM tradition for Jenny 153, a mature album that displays its influences tastefully while confidently moving the style into the future. It also strikes an appealing balance between Cohen's abrasive earlier work and the more tuneful direction he's been exploring on more recent releases, which should please fans both old and new.
Certainly fans of '90s British IDM will map with pleasure the various touchstones Cohen nods towards here. The beautiful opening of album highlight "Life Cycle" seems to have lifted its poignant synth-tones straight from Aphex Twin's "Flim" for instance, before descending into a bed of darkly beautiful distortion not unlike some of Boards of Canada's more aggressive work circa Geogaddi. Likewise, the sinister "Uncontrollable Worm" lumbers towards you like some forgotten B-side from In Pine Effect. One could reference Autechre and Plaid's darker offerings as well, but importantly, Jenny 153 isn't derivative — just well-steeped in the work of those who have come before. "Raw Food" deftly incorporates the processed snare rushes of vintage Aphex, for instance, but in service of a rhythm that flirts with trap/hip-hop, making for an interesting pairing.
That said, there is some filler. The album is bookended by brief, percussion-less "intro" and "outro" tracks that are inoffensive but inessential, and which on a relatively brief nine-track album could have been replaced with something more substantial. "FYI," a tiresome exercise in abrasive pounding that suddenly gives way to church organ, might be conceptually sound on some level, but it fails to endear itself.
Luckily, the rest of the album is quite strong, making it easier to forgive these less than stellar inclusions. Fans of the genre's beginnings might get the most out of Jenny 153, but anyone looking for an intelligent statement of IDM affairs in 2017 will be well served by Dead Fader's latest. (Parachute Records)