Album of the Week #3: edIT – Certified Air Raid Material

edit-certified_air_raid_materialI first discovered edIT when a friend of mine recommended I check out his first album Crying Over Pros For No Reason, which Planet Mu released in 2004. Pros was a staggering piece of work: whilst Glitch as a scene has long since worn itself out, edIT was always a class apart from the rest. His first album is almost devastatingly beautiful, delivering fragile, broken-hearted glitched electronica that was just utterly mesmerising. My good friend Laurent wrote a stunning piece over at FACT mag, explaining why its one of his favourite records of all time – take a read when you get a mo.

So why am I choosing edIT’s followup, Certified Air Raid Material over his debut? Because its pretty much where edIT took the gloves off and aimed squarely for your head with monstrous, tight production and a fairly nonstop flow of top-dollar belters. Its as if edIT sat there and thought “Oh you want it full-on? YOU GOT IT”. With the opening intro skit “I Slay Crowds” the man born Edward Ma sets out his stall – and when it leads into “Battling Go-Go Yubari In Downtown LA”, the intent is clear here: edIT’s come to blow your head off.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is how tight the production is on this record. Its still one of those gold standard records by which I judge the quality of a audiophile setup. The control over sound here is surgical, with the basslines and kicks designed to rattle your head and hit you right in the throat.

For me edIT tracks a strange line back to the dub pioneers of the 70s. Those guys were the crowned masters of playing with sound; of tossing a noise or sound effect into the air and teasing it out – spinning it up and away from the rest of the music in a strange, alchemic kind of manner. On both his albums, edIT does the same. Everything is played with. Melodies reverse, stutter, loop into quarter bars and more, making the whole listening experience juddering, slightly woozy and utterly fucking incredible.

Whilst this album is largely instrumental, one of the few vocal tracks on it delivers lyrics so good that if I could get a poster made of them, I’d hang them on the wall of my office. Artsy Remix sees The Grouch step up to deliver a vicious beatdown of pretentious types, all set against a fucking devastating skating synth and a kick drum that – at the right volume – makes your throat twitch:

You ain’t artsier than me
Cuz you got sideburns and a vintage tee
I said you ain’t artiser than me
Cuz you pluck a guitar, that ain’t fuckin bizarre
You ain’t artsier than me
Cuz you live in Los Feliz, bitch you ain’t Jesus
You ain’t artsier than me
I got a colorful vocab, watch the low jab

This isn’t an MC bragging his greatness; quite the opposite – to me he’s just setting out that he’s a guy getting on with his world and fuck the pretence: “I’m a humanoid too / and if you’re cool with me then I’ll look past the void in you / instead of through”. Every time I play the song it has me feeling like I could punch the air and scream “FUCK YES!!” – which, let’s be frank, is always a good thing.

Following Artsy is the title track from the album. In some respects, this song summarises the shift from Crying Over Pros to the New Aggressive edIT. Beginning with some soft guitar getting reversed and generally pulled apart, the song keeps you interested enough… and then it stops. “Alright you little bitches – AIR RAID!” yells a female voice, and then BANG: in drops a twisting, turning bassline that summarises perfectly why edIT is a masterful producer. Its controlled, yet ferocious. Above all, its totally sublime.

If funk in a track is derived less from the notes that are there and more from those that aren’t, edIT steps up throughout this album. Songs don’t so much groove as lurch, leaving sound or silence hanging and teasing you. In some respects, it bears similar hallmarks to the sparse earlier work of the Neptunes, where it feels like there’s maybe only 3 or 4 sounds in each song, despite there no doubt being far, far more. Straight Heat is another fine example. The drums aren’t funky in themselves, but answering the call to “gimme a funky ass bassline!”, a staccato organ riff drops in with the bass that just patches the whole thing together into one massive, dirty, swaying masterpiece.

Sometimes – rarely, but once in a blue moon – an album comes along that is as much a pleasure to listen to because of its production as it is for the quality of the songs. Its like seeing a film that’s as much a rollercoaster ride because of the FX and surround sound as for the plot (an equally rare thing in my experience); there’s pleasure just in the aural experience of the album itself. Certified Air Raid Material fits that bill for me: hearing it isn’t just amazing because the songs are astonishing – its amazing because the sheer experience of listening is so exhilarating.

Enough words. Dig in below – and crank it up as high as you can, right from the start.

Listen on your streaming service of choice :: Buy at Amazon

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