Album of the Day: Rioux, “Fragmenta”

Erin Rioux’s experimental electronic music is the perfect illustration of the joy that accompanies discovery for discovery’s sake. Its songs morph as surprisingly as the color clouds in his interactive digital art environment, “Evolver,” or the series of videos for his excellent 2014 collaboration with astrophysicist/saxophonist Stephon Alexander, Here Come Now. The primary theme across the Brooklyn producer’s full-length solo debut, Fragmenta, is combative rhythmic interplay: Trap beats become stuttering free-jazz improvisations (“Aphasia”), then degrade into system-overload digital hardcore (“Synapse”) and haunted two-step (“Prime Matter”). There are nods to ambient and process music, too; single “Unfamiliar Cloud” explores the overlap between the piano licks that drive Radiohead’s recent “Daydreaming” and the stratified rhythmic interplay of Steve Reich. Throughout, Rioux’s smudged, reticent vocals — think a hoarser, more funereal Owen Pallett—drift in the middle of the mix.

In polyglottish music like this, it’s easy for the disparate stylistic elements to cancel out a clear artistic signature. But Rioux distinguishes himself by making his thirst for staking out uncharted territory infectious. Fragmenta isn’t ‘Like Nothing You’ve Ever Heard Before,’ but it’s just surprising enough. Rioux finds natural and invigorating pivot points that keep the listener both engaged and constantly guessing, all without disrupting the album’s gauzy, speculative mood.  

Winston Cook-Wilson

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