“We are a part of a rhythm nation.”
It’s no great secret that lo-fi is becoming at the end of the decade what dance-punk revivalism was in the early 00’s: it’s ubiquitous, inescapable, and a seemingly free ride to the hyperbole-studded avenues of critical fawnery. No Age’s 2008 snooze parade Nouns, in particular, demonstrated how easily substance can take a backseat to style and still manage to hold the feelers of the blogosphere in an irrepressible vice grip.
That being said, Ruff Demoz — the first collection proper from SiA-approved, one-man powerhouse Death Knelly — is not that kind of record. On one level, these songs are the “rough demos” they claim to be; still, there’s a sort of rag-tag cohesiveness here that keeps the tracks from feeling less like a haphazard throw-some-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks effort, and more like a collection that — while it may not favor the sort of narrative strategy of A leading to B, then B to C and so on — is irrevocably indebted to the tightly focused vision of its maker.
Considering the tongue-in-cheek didacticism of “White Tigers,” or the lyrical intimacy of “Ladies of the Lake,” Ruff Demoz is a refreshing example of an artist doing something for his medium, rather than following the example of the slew of bratty lo-fi bloghounds whose recording quality is their only discernible claim to relevance. More than charm, which this collection has in strides, it’s got soul.
DK’s Chase Jackson has an impressive knack for mutedly discussing big-top human complications in a surprisingly small amount of room: from the trifecta of love, lust and sexuality (“Child O’ God”) to the power of narrative and storytelling (“Don’t Shoot Out the Lights”), Ruff Demoz does more than display a remarkably effecient economy of language — it reminds us why we listen to music in the first place.
[Download the album here.]
[Read Silence in Architecture’s interview with Chase Jackson.]