Photographer: Genevieve Dellinger.
Once known for plunderphonic breakbeat noise debauchery and lengthy, sarcastic song titles that mocked the seriousness of the experimental electronic music underground, Kid606's post-2010 material found the aging artist venturing down an increasingly mellow path, and his 2015 releases were devoted entirely to ambient music. Recollected Ambient Works, Vol. 1: Bored of Excitement was a collection of minimalist piano compositions, and the digital-only Vol. 1.5 was based around his version of Brian Eno's pioneering tape loop work Discreet Music (1975). Vol. 2: Escape to Los Angeles, while still falling under the category of ambient music, is significantly more varied and tuneful than the previous two releases, with shimmering melodies and gentle basslines that swiftly evolve. The album was born out of a period when Kid606 moved back to California after a stint in Berlin, but he wasn't quite ready to face city life again, so he settled in the desert town of Joshua Tree instead, while involved in a long-distance relationship with a woman who lived in Los Angeles. Desert life didn't turn out to be as satisfying as he expected, and he began to feel isolated. Once the relationship ended, he felt the need to leave the desert and return to the city to start over; then his mother moved in with him and he lost his mind, prompting an immediate relocation back to L.A. Given all these tumultuous life events and changes, it's no surprise that this album has such an emotional range. While there's plenty of relaxing, even playful moments (such as the twinkling "Sleepy Meerkat Lullaby"), several tracks inhabit a much darker realm, building waves of fuzz and distortion that clearly express tension but are miles away from the anarchist fury of his earliest work. Rippling, chiming opener "Tibetan Summer" is the closest this album comes to stumbling upon a beat, and its final two minutes are soaked in muddy distortion; this is not the ideal ambient album to listen to while practicing yoga. Many of the song titles ("Big Sur," "Skull Rock," "Yucca Valley") evoke desert imagery, and the music has a somewhat mystical, cinematic feel, suggesting an audio equivalent of a Jodorowsky film inspired by a spiritual retreat to the desert, if not quite as shockingly violent or surrealist. Escape to Los Angeles is a remarkable album that balances worry, wistfulness, and wonder, and given how notoriously spotty Kid606's discography has always been, it's one of his most consistently enjoyable releases. ~ Paul Simpson