If Doldrums' debut album evinced a fascination with the digital age, their follow-up album is a full-blown obsession. The Air Conditioned Nightmare is fast-paced and jam-packed with changing sections that demand attention with intoxicating urgency. If the Internet age has given us all short attention spans, Doldrums' new album demands undivided attentiveness.
Doldrums mastermind Airick Woodhead wrote the album after endless tours in the United States, after which he found, like writer Henry Miller did after returning to the United States after 10 years as an expatriate, that, "Nowhere else in the world is the divorce between man and nature so complete." Woodhead's inspiration from Miller's words comes through in songs such as "Loops," which has a synthetic and one-dimensional feel that evokes the detached, isolated feeling with which modern life has left him.
Songs like "Loops" and "We Awake" recall the catchy melodies of Lesser Evil, the band's 2013 debut, but overall, The Air Conditioned Nightmare spends more time exploring electronic sounds, as beat-driven songs like "My Friend Simjen" and the album opener, "HOTFOOT" define the album's jarring, erratic aesthetic.
Sometimes, that jarring sense can feel overwhelming — The Air Conditioned Nightmare could stand a little more room to breathe, and would benefit from a more cohesive flow to bring it together — but then, it seems that's exactly the feeling Woodhead wanted to convey here. Either way, The Air Conditioned Nightmare feels like another uncompromising work from the intriguing Woodhead, and in its wide-spanning sound, offers something to both long-time fans and new ones. (Sub Pop)