Litany Reviews: Download's Effector - by Corey Goldberg
Effector is an important record for Download. Their last release, 1997's III, was met with a mixed reception by fans. After the triumph of the dense and aggressive albums Furnace and the Eyes of Stanley Pain, which were mostly recorded with Dwayne and Mark Spybey as members of the band, the more laid-back, Detroit style follow-up, recorded primarily by cEvin and Philth, left some disappointed. While I personally enjoyed the album, I will admit that I, too, was somewhat skeptical about the future of Download. Three years later, cEvin and Philth unveiled Effector, an album which is neither a return to the earlier period of Download nor a direct continuation of the III sound.
With Effector, it is clear that Download has begun to explore a new path. "Carrier Tone" features a gorgeous melody and cushiony atmospheric harmonies. Dense rhythms coalesce and disintegrate as they underpin its rather song-like structure and, by the end, the melody has etched itself into our brain. "Muscaria" is somewhat freer structurally, but retains interest through constant reinvention of itself and the inventive use of guitar as a harmonic anchor. "Vagator" is a spooky yet groovy track reminiscent of "Nocruisin" from Spacecake. I am hesitant to use the term aggressive to describe its heavy, pounding rhythm lest I tease those unfortunate few who are seeking their 'music to be pissed off to' fix, but this is one of the funkiest tracks cEvin has ever released. The music here seems undeniably organic and composed rather than a mere bunch of machines running their presets. The structure also seems well developed as motifs disappear and are then recapitulated. "Ego Dissolve" utilizes cEvin's reggae influence to great effect and has a really interesting sampled percussion segment. An almost ambient portion contrasts nicely with the persistent drums. "The Guide" takes us on a chase with a fast paced synth line similar to "Sheila Liked the Rodeo". This is a very cinematic track that, with its constant fast pace yet quickly shifting sections, is quite reminiscent of some of Dwayne's solo work. "Chrysanthemum" slows things down with an addictive synth groove. "Ayahuasca" is a flight through the clouds upon a soaring spiritual melody aided by cascades of glowing electronics. "Two Worlds Collide" uses some vocal samples to spice up the mix and shows off more of an abrasive sound than the rest of the album. The rhythmic production is reminiscent of cEvin's earlier work. Closing the album beautifully, "Affirmed" begins rather march-like but sweeps us away with majestic harmonies and a haunting electronic melody.
There are a few negative points that keep Effector from being on the level of their best works, such as The Eyes of Stanley Pain and Furnace. The album lacks direction and continuity. The delicate balance between cohesion and variety achieved by EOSP is not quite reached. While every single track is interesting, not all of them are unique enough. Though not a complete knockout, Effector is a wonderful and surprising album that shows the return of many elements, like structure and melody, which have in the past made cEvin and co.'s previous work miles ahead of the rest of electronic music. In doing so it adds a number of classics to the Download canon. The record also proves that, despite the tragic loss of Dwayne and the departure of Mark Spybey, cEvin and Philth are a major creative force on their own. Effector is a thoroughly sculpted and composed work that will doubtlessly reward this listener for years to come.