Facts about this album:
* Tim Exile was born Tim Shaw, and was classically trained in violin as a child.
* ‘Listening Tree’ is his third album, and his first for Warp.
What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Or a pair of the ill-tempered, ugly fuckers, even? This gallopingly demented album comes off like a battle between two gargantuan, city-pulverising, sci-fi beasts engaged in an epic ruckus. Representing the world of Bowie-esque art pop is Mechagodzilla, pummelling vast chunks out of Mothra, who is retaliating by shooting lasers out of its eyes to protect experimental IDM.
Perhaps the violent and contradictory sound that Tim Exile, a Berlin-based British expat who designs his own music software, has created is unsurprising though. Warp, for all their chin-stroking associations, have enthusiastically embraced a woozy form of pop in the past on singles such as Aphex Twin’s ‘Windowlicker’ and Squarepusher’s ‘Red Hot Car’. Even Planet Mu puts out as much music that can just as comfortably be described as ‘retro’ or ‘urban’ as it does sounds that can be filed under ‘Aiieeeee! What the fuck is this?!’
Opener ‘Don’t Think We’re One’ sees Exile’s pop instincts winning out and the result is like a delightful combination of Richard D James’ ‘Boy Girl Song’ and ’80s seedy popsters Soft Cell. At the other end of the scale, on ‘Family Galaxy’, with its ever-changing speeds and pitch shifts, he is not signposting the future of music, just taking us down an extremely psychedelic and bizarre cul-de-sac. But the music itself isn’t really that difficult. Compared to Autechre for example, this is a walk in the park. The real sticking point here is his sometimes ludicrous ‘I record music on synthesizers so I must sing like a robot’ delivery. After all, it’s hard to take anything seriously when it’s delivered in the style of The Mighty Boosh’s ‘Future Sailors’.