The Depressed American Dream
Independent Release, 2005
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/06/2005
What does the band name The New Digital Sound (NDS) suggest? To me, it sounds like a hardcore electronica band, proudly bearing the label "Made In Europe," consisting of two bald DJs (most likely hardly able to speak English) and an occasional female singer from the UK, attempting to give the music an international appeal.
Well, for one, NDS doesn't hail from Europe; it is a product of Boston, in America. But it is electronica, and it does consist of a (not two, just one) DJ -- Don Smith (also called Copelinn) -- with no female singers whatsoever. NDS is a part of the new sub-culture of the American alternative music scene that is seeing a growing number of bands embracing European techno/electronica music.
Copelinn describes his sound as closest to The Chemical Brothers and Moby. I would however like to go further to say that his music, in addition, sounds like listening to the soundtrack of the psychedelic audio-narratives on "This American Life" on National Public Radio.
To try making sense of the analogy, let me describe NDS' music on The Depressed American Dream (and, I wouldn't be the least surprised if this title happened to be the name of an outtake that didn't make it to Green Day's American Idiot).
The album has absolutely no singing, but plenty of vocals. The music is comprised of simple but subtly complex techno rhythms, with sampled speeches acting as the vocals. If vocal samples from antiquated numbers on Play are what made Moby's sound completely fresh and ingenious, then the weird appearance of bits of speeches and conversations -- stolen from the radio and the television -- on the numbers on The Depressed American Dream act as a signature style for NDS.
The music on this 13-track LP is laidback and simplified electronica like that of Moby's or the Protection era of Massive Attack's, but with a quirkier edge. The titles are quirky too -- "Exclude 17," "Type Two Army Ants," "Infection Crisis" -- no less than the ones by Stereolab. The songs would have been boring without the voices of all kinds that speak randomly about everything, from space missions to the purchase of a hammer dulcimer. Since every number is blessed with these voices, the album makes for a very interesting listening experience.
There is but one exception to the above. The song "Basement Analog Playset" has vocals that actually sing, presumably sung by Copelinn himself. It does not have any speech samples, and has but an electric guitar strummed angrily as music. It is a wonderful anomaly to the album, and, considering that it is one of the best tracks on the record, indicates that NDS is capable of more than just being a band that fools around with mixing different sounds on a computer.
Copelinn's mixing of painstakingly discovered sound-bytes with his music has been done with near perfection: plagiarism couldn't sound better. The Depressed American Dream is no longer than 39-odd minutes. It flows as one whole song, passing through soundscapes of a soundtrack for human confessions captured off guard. NDS' sound is progressive and original; a "new digital sound" indeed.
[ For more information on The New Digital Sound, and to buy the cd, visit www.thenewdigitalsound.org]