In her 2010 RBMA Lecture, gender-equality activist DJ Sprinkles spoke about her interest in the rarity of electronic music in America in the 70s and 80s. Artists such as Devo and Gary Numan, huge influences on her deep house sound, express alternativity, queerness and a mistfit experience through electronics. It’s a sound that at once evokes a futuristic utopia and a nightmare of social marginalisation. In 2015, this double bind still grips our youth.
In Doldrums’ ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’, you can hear elements of Numan’s freaky, gothic and androgynous techno pop. The band create a space where the worlds of techno and punk collide, and in this deconstructive fusion lies that crippling adolescent disillusion with both oneself and society. Far from the irreverence of a lot of Numan’s lyrics (just listen to Cars), Doldrums deal with current affairs, personal and universal, as if wielding a battering ram. Songs such as iDeath, Video Hostage and Industry City deliver a fierce and woeful social commentary, catechising the apparent 2015 dystopia of destructive digitisation, terrorism and urbanisation.
Their name alone suggests that this is not joyful music. But, then, uncanniness strikes, because you find yourself dancing. You can’t help it. This album uses the animation of club music, fired by elements of post-punk and live percussion, to wield a very powerful musical weapon. What does it mean to dance to songs about terroristic atrocities, the wounds of which are still raw?
It’s a disturbing paradox. And paradoxism is what characterises The Air Conditioned Nightmare. It is is referential, yet smacks of futurism. It’s a melancholy indictment of modern life, yet slots seamlessly into the paradisial realm of the club. These conundrums might be adequately summed up by the disjointed lyrics of ‘Loops’: “In circles again/Now we are right where we began/The loops are everywhere/ This again conversation that don’t mean a thing/It feels just like we’re going in loops again.”