Ifdakar, a quintet from Wisconsin that fuses electronica with other styles, delivers a stylish package with this newest release. This album presents a surprisingly fresh palette that results in a nice mix of dark, spacey jams with other more rock-oriented numbers. The album changes gears frequently, and this keeps the musical conversations on this album active and lively. Featuring the talents of Jon Schinke and Curt Biese on guitars and synths, Zach Chisholm on bass, Sammy Binder on keyboards, and Frank Deringer on drums, the band has been playing since 2008. Although certain bands in the electronic music scene rise into prominence, and thus become the figures of comparison, Ifdakar presents a rather unique sound and style of arrangement that separates them from others. One might hear little bits of Lotus or STS9 in the fringes of these tracks, but those comparisons are only jumping off points and surely don't encompass the varied moods of "On the Edge."
The album begins with "Agwa," a spirited dance number that fuses layered synth effects with driving rhythms and guitar. This song ventures through several moods and styles, coalescing nicely with sparkling keys and energetic bass lines. "Drive" arrives with a combination of ska-influenced rhythms and playful lyrics before changing directions entirely. "Leo" is more methodical and contemplative, utilizing guitar, bass, and drums to complement the sparse electronic groove at the heart of the song. The song breaks down into layered arrangements, full of warbling, mind-bending effects. This song seems particularly potent when cranking it through headphones and closes in energetic fashion. "Healin" utilizes a funky, popping bass line with interesting vocals that seem reminiscent of David Bowie and Velvet Underground-era Lou Reed. "A Wood Divided" begins with vibratory bass and oscillating synthesizer effects, then yields to a spirited guitar workout.
"The Rhythm" utilizes reggae grooves, sauntering keyboards and a dancehall sensibility before changing tempo and charging headfirst into more "metallic" regions. "Kool Aid Man" starts with rollicking piano before yielding to guitar of varied mood and application. The song culminates with spirited duels between guitar and keys, who fend off the aggressive charges of the rhythm section. The song is particularly tight and demonstrates Sammy Binder's exquisite work on the keys. "Eyes" displays good energy and interesting vocals while Zach Chisholm's bass thumps along. Screaming guitar dots the periphery of the track as it rumbles to its conclusion. "Time" begins with Ifdakar's typical verve and bounce, but settles into more atmospheric explorations with guitar as the song progresses. Keyboards and guitars mesh into frenzied noise fractals as the song concludes. The album closes with "Larry the Emu," a guitar workout accentuated by keys, synth effects, and solid work from the rhythm section.
In reviewing this album, I was very impressed by the varying moods and musical applications that Ifdakar brings to the table. There is a charming quality to those songs with lyrics, as those tracks almost feel like songs from a bygone era, where pop craftsmanship was more evident than today. Those tracks with a more modern "electronica" feel are also deftly executed, resulting in an album with a surprising number of interesting vantage points and places for observation. The tracks on this album are well-produced, warm and inviting and present a compelling rendition of electronic music, steeped in funk and rock and roll. The voyage of "On the Edge" proves to be quite interesting and well-worth the time spent.
- J. Evan Wade