3 out of 5
Produced by: Matthew Yee-king (?)
Not that computing terms are at all out of place when it comes to electro, but Yee-King’s album title – SuperUser – feels a bit too apropos, suggestive of the artist’s top down approach (in my mind) to constructing these twelve tracks, which sift through a Rephlex directory – if you will – and pluck out the effects and beats needed, re-editing it into a compressed, idealized version of the same. This is the kind of thing we see crop up decades later, as labels like Central Processing Unit and Analogical Force dedicate themselves to the 90s Aphex and crew sounds, and sometimes lean too hard on that; Yee-King was doing that in 2000, which would seem to put them ahead of the curve… but it turns out that this copy-and-paste approach isn’t necessarily engaging whenever it’s done.
…Which implies that, firstly, copying and pasting is easy – these are intricate compositions; that’s not the case – or that that automatically makes the music bad, which, in SuperUser’s case, it definitely doesn’t. However, it is limiting, and certainly robs the copied-and-pasted work of a sense of identity, which is my main complaint about this disc: it sounds pretty awesome; I remember getting it upon release and being happy that another Rephlexer was doing the slippery percussion, breakbeat shuffle dance, stepping from early Squarepusher to Richard D. James-era Aphex pop. But I also don’t remember much about the latter half of the album, because I tend to lose focus by then. SuperUser simply isn’t very engaging: Yee-King wants to get a bit of everything in there – breaks, ambience, etc. – and while each individual track is focused, the entire picture is not. And within those tracks, it never quite feels like we’re hearing a finished picture; the songs are complete, yes, but tend to be lacking some extra element to make them truly stand out. It’s just all very pleasant and does the right moves, while not standing out even amongst the then-smaller crowd of artists doing similar things.
A digital release has some background from the artist which may suggest why: that these tracks were never really intended for release, until RDJ expressed interest. On the one hand – damn! That’s cool! On the other, perhaps that’s why SuperUser has always had the taint of someone playing around with ideas, and not tightening them up for an album.
Which is a lot of negativity for a three star rating, but the album really is enjoyable, if also immemorable.