One of the many things that I admire about electronic musician FIRST AID (especially after interviewing him) is his desire to learn, explore, and challenge himself as an artist. He does not limit himself to one method but rather immerses himself in several musical languages. Open-mindedness and curiosity are thoroughly ingrained into his creative process and you can hear that in his music: while always retaining his sparkling fingerprint, each of his releases embraces a new musical concept or challenge. And from these freshly unearthed rhythms, harmonies, timbres, moods, and production techniques, FIRST AID extracts an airtight sound world for us to enjoy.
The mere concept of his most recent album Back to the Innermind demonstrates his pro-activeness as a musician: he created this seven-track album in seven days. FIRST AID describes this album as a pursuit of the rhythmic complexity of Jungle music, an instrumental genre characterized by intricate breakbeats and minimalist synths, samples, and bass-lines.
As listeners, we don’t often think of rhythm as music’s driving expressive force, but this may be the case with Back to the Innermind. FIRST AID’s rhythms are carefully composed and bubble with life. They scurry around and run into each other, bloom open and then huddle inwards, and exchange phrases just like melodies. They are even more of a prominent and insistent voice than the synths, bass-lines, and samples.
That being said, I’d advise listening to this album not as if it were a portrait, but as if it were an impressionistic canvas of textures, colors, and shadows that reveal their character to you as you spend more time with them (much like the album cover: shimmering synths and rhythms that fly past in indistinguishable bright flashes). The centerpiece of this music, the rhythms, are nuanced and fast-paced and won’t get stuck in your head or coddle you in a straightforward narrative like a stunning melody might. Instead of waiting for the meat to be served in the melodies or harmonies, follow this elusive sea of rhythms towards whatever imagery or sensation they happen to conjure up in the moment. Draw in closely to their intricacies and their interplay with the other musical layers. Listen to what they have to say. You can find that these rhythms are as expressive as melodic lines, but since we aren’t used to listening this way, it may require some imaginative effort.
Back to the Innermind’s rhythmic complexity gives your mind a lot to keep busy with. In some ways, this is brainy music, in some ways not: you can dig in as deep into this album with rhythmic analysis as you would like, but you can also use your senses and imagination to submerge yourself in its impressionism. This album is a extremely polished work that represents not only great technical skill but mature artistry.