Emerging like a phoenix from the garbage pile of the internet, Habits, the sample-based one man show created by Dustin M. Krapes, has finally released his collection of songs as a full length LP, 'Unselves in Arrival.' Most of the songs that make up this collection would be as much at home at a dancehall as they would be at the Church on York. To categorize this as electro rock, or synth pop, or at all for that matter, severely undercuts the scope of his work. I can merely, at my best, describe it as a chopped up, caffeinated, cut and paste collage of found sounds from music's past made for the future. This is one of the albums that should surely be buried in 2014's time capsule, perhaps sent in a rocket to whatever planet we end up colonizing next.
Trite as it may sound, the bombardment of submissions from kids playing music like it's a video game, is overwhelming, and their efforts, more than underwhelming. Not only is Habits' music commenting on this aspect of our modern age, it's beating them all at their own game.
From "Dark Matter of Fact" to "Heavy Color," his compositions are the perfect soundtrack to a speed-laced night time stroll through the streets of Tokyo. "Snkchrmr" fits this category, as well as many others, but its minimalist, quirky video game sound design samplings undergirding the spoken word style vocals make it a standout, as it does as much as the others, with less.
Krapes' similarity in vocal texture and songwriting stylings have been compared to early Beck many times over, even by this publication. It's an easy reference, but a welcome one nonetheless. No song makes this more obvious than "Toymakr." His silver-tongued stream of consciousness pays homage to those early days when Beck was just beginning to leave his mark. There's no way to fault him for this influence, since he pulls it off so well, using absurdism against itself.
Of all the forward thinking songwriters of the late 90s/early aughts who also acted as their own producers (Beck, Eels), Habits most closely resembles the perhaps lesser known, Self. His extremely self-aware sarcasm that brilliantly mocked pop culture, appropriately pairing musical styles with corresponding commentary, made his biting lyrics digestible because of his impeccable production. Like Self, Habits is able to lift his songwriting right off the page and call your eardrums to attention. Making a good song that you can dance to is something Krapes can pull off blindfolded, with both arms tied behind his back. What makes this project, and this album, so noteworthy, is not only the musical complexities, or even the catchy riffs, but the fact that he doesn't allow you to consume what he's dosing out in partitions - you must swallow his pill whole, scathing social commentary down the hatch with the glitchy dance beats and clever hooks.
Previously featured on our site as a single last year, "Haacksaw" is the centerpiece to the album. Like the movements of a symphony, the arrangement bounces back and forth between laid-back new age vibrations and balls to the wall rock choruses. "Haacksaw" cuts to the core of his varied themes on a soul wandering endlessly in the machinery of the computer age.
Throughout the album, between the clever lines, dancing beneath the myriad synth lines, is an undercurrent of loneliness - a longing. It would be presumptuous of me to assume that Krapes himself is desperate for human connection in a world obsessed with communication's lowest common denominator. What seems more likely, is his observation of what we've become. More connected than ever, at all times plugged in, the kinetic energy between two souls that make actual eye contact has been forgotten - and perhaps the true outcome of this, like withdrawing from a drug, is that there is now even more power in that first glance. Stream 'Unselves in Arrival' from Habits' Bandcamp page, and order the cassette through Fleeting Youth Records. - Jacqueline Caruso