Published Sep 13, 2018On the cover art for Joel Eel's Very Good Person, two bloodied, gloved hands appear against a flint background, fingers splayed as if the figure they belong to is taking in the actions that lead up to the scene. On Performing A Crime, the gloves are off but the blood has soaked through, as red-stained fingers loosely grip an iPhone displaying a single red rose, fallen petals decorating the image's black matting.
Contained within are dirtier, darker takes on the EBM-inflected techno Eel burst onto the scene with; the acidic synths, the cold spoken vocals and the brutalist beats are still there, but Eel's production is heavier and more industrial, taking the palette that set "OMG" apart from its surroundings on Very Good Person and running deeper into the industrial sector, as if to scream the sentiment that guided that track louder from the wasteland.
Opening with a set of corroded electro entries, Eel builds up anxious tension with a series of vulnerable tracks unloading expressionist glimpses of personal fears and feelings of disposability, like an emotional Pinterest board. But as the album progresses, Eel gets more specific about the circumstances of his disenfranchisement, addressing his racialization between the kinds of gunshots that fired through his contribution to Forth's inaugural compilation with a declarative vocal that reads like a less toxic Reznor on "Man of Color, My Machine."
The intensity is fully involved by the time we reach the bottom end, as tension boils over with the cathartic pulse of "Body Builder" and its blacked-out techno, a throbbing instrumental lost to the distortion while a hi-hat sizzles and synths get pitched into the stratosphere. "Garden of Roses" makes a hedonistic encore bound to claim some screens on the dance floor.
Finding refuge in the darkness, this is Eel at his most naked and expressive. (Independent)