Darren Keen (The Show Is the Rainbow, Bad Speler) delivers two deep-reaching records.
Darren Keen has spent much of his career performing and recording as the Show Is the Rainbow (and was a member of the oh-so-awesome Saddle Creek-recording Beep Beep) but the Nebraskan has opened up a new vein via Touch People. Combining dots and dashes from Steve Reich, Battles, and Tortoise, Keen creates music that raises questions about the nature of man’s relationship with technology. More specifically, he asks whether we, as humans, even want to be touched anymore in an age when we connect without really connecting. Using traditional rock instruments, then twisting and turning them, manipulating and maneuvering them, he creates the wall of melodic noise that is Touch People.
Having already released Everyone Is Not Alive last year, Keen returns with two new records: the limited vinyl long-player Show Me Your Dimensions and the EP Sound Expression. Eleven tracks long, Show Me comprises two major compositions, "Depth of Width" on the first side and the title cut on the second. The six-part "Depth" never loses its sense of melodic mysticism whether building tension with the minimalist opening movement, get its weirdness on with its second, or testing one’s endurance and blending its many disparate elements with the fourth. It’s always melodic, frequently dance worthy, and less manic than Keen’s work with the Show Is the Rainbow.
"Show Me Your Dimensions" thrives in its second and third movements when the music is more accessible and at times transcendent. In the end Show Me Your Dimensions emerges as a thoughtfully and carefully constructed album that is remarkably intelligent and memorable.
Sound Expression opens with the intense "Every Word", a seven-minute piece that spends half its life dwelling as a mad, militant minimalist chant. In its earliest stages it almost entirely envelopes the listener in a weighty darkness but, half way through, it moves into a more melodic and nearly uplifting form, asking the listener to rethink their response and perhaps the composition itself. "You Can Live" is an experiment in futuristic exotica, asking us to imagine the lakes and lagoons of some far off planet that has yet to be discovered, while "Sound Expression" is a loveable and bizarre wash of all the disparate sounds Keen brings to life.
Across these two releases nothing ever comes off as stale whether repeated one or 1000 times. Keen creates an ever-evolving realm of sound that is impossibly fascinating and genius in its ability to blend the fragile frigidity of the digital world with the warmth and wit of the human body and the human mind.
Touch People isn’t Keen’s final artistic resting place; he’ll release more the Show Is the Rainbow music this year and some with still another project, Bad Speler. Still, these two records are two must-have releases that will no doubt take their rightful places as classic recordings from an artist who is wise, unpredictable, and always inventive.