Poppy Electronica, Vacation Vibe

Why is it that the most commonplace good-time pop-music elements — for example, a lilting electric-guitar melody and a cliché hip-hop drum loop — can combine to form something almost unbearably delectable? The musician Dim Dim (known to friends and family as Jerry Dimmer) specializes in exactly that sort of home-studio alchemy. And if “Riri,” the opening track to Kiwi (on the Audio Dregs label), is such a spectacular feat of Saturday-morning good cheer, it’s no surprise that the rest of the album can’t quite equal the initial sugar rush. “Riri” has a Carl Stalling goofiness, all “boing!” sound effects once it gets going, plus a consistent Don Ho, Hawaiian-vacation vibe. The song may appear to be mid-tempo, but it has a secret weapon in its feisty backbeat, which will have you attempting a conga line with the nearest carbon-based life form.

The album is packed with tracks that were built from the musical equivalent of Lego bricks: all the pieces are bright, shiny and interchangeable. “Fucha Fucha” has a kid singing along, nursery-rhyme style, with an occasional snippet of elementary scratching. “Flit” brings in more slack-key guitar, and recalls Kid Koala’s way with ambiguously paced vinyl recordings; it’s amazing what a little mechanized backbeat will do to refurbish an old 78. “Los Gitanos” echoes Amon Tobin’s Brazilian fusion escapades. Perhaps the one truly disappointing track on Kiwi comes midway through, in the form of “Frosty.” The song has all the telltale signs of drum’n’bass — dramatic downward modulation, the zippy back-and-forth percussion — but it’s too familiar to be fun. Perhaps Dim Dim’s point is that drum’n’bass is just another kind of party music, one element among many in his cartoony bag of tune tools, but oddly enough it’s the one element here he has not truly made his own.

This album review appeared, in slightly different form, in the autumn 2003 issue of e|i magazine.

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