Album Review: Conformist – Paid To Fake It


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When I asked Conformist about his music earlier this year, he described what he did as “Atari Teenage Riot covering The Sex Pistols, recorded by Aphex Twin then chewed up and spat into a garbage can.”

At first I was deeply confused – then I listened.

From “Savages go Modern!” to the final track, “Panic Buying” the album fails to sit still, defies all genre classification, leaving you dazzled but intrigued as to how an album like this came to be constructed.

29yr old Welshman Michael Simmons, A.K.A: Conformist described the process of making this album as “one long therapy session”. A therapy session that laments the modern world – whilst embracing its most facile elements – and turning them inside out to create a wonderful record.

A cataclysm of data loss, software failure and data loss created a beautifully cracked, eclectic album that will have you gripped to your seat and wondering what it was that just happened.

Paid to Fake it was written over a three year period with some of the tracks coming from a back catalogue over 8 years old, which is remarkable seeing how fresh and cutting edge the tracks sound – something from the near distant future. Simmons commented that time became his own worst enemy in the fabrication of the album, completely unhindered by time scales of production, unrestricted by studio time budgets and record label demands. It has led to a flourish on the artists canvas, however. If only all bands had this amount of space and time to create something unique.

Drawing inspiration from Bowie, Clark and perhaps most recognizably Flying Lotus – This album will leave you dizzy. So how on earth do you begin to describe such a ground-breaking opus?  It is nearly impossible to catalogue the immense breadth and depth of samples used – to even begin to track them is confusing.

There is a nod to the Avalanches opus ‘Since I met You’ in its incongruity and use of sampling – give that record a few tabs and you are somewhere near where this album is at artistically. Some sound vaguely uncanny and familiar – yet still provoke uncertainty as to their genesis. describe this album as ‘The Soundtrack to ADHD’ somewhat aptly – as the tracks never sit still for a second. Constantly leaping, sometimes crawling occasionally rolly polly-ing. “Girl Who Burned from Inside Out” sounds like going to Lazer-quest on Acid – you can hear the neon through the record, burning eyeballs.

‘Savages Go Modern’ opens the album with a overdriven guitar riff, interspersed with 32 bit sounds (Mario jumping off the Gameboy?!) driven by an unconventional drum beat and synth. “Dance, dance, dance – SHUT UP AND DANCE” forms the lyrical axiom for modern audiences. This track is our favourite from the record at 54-46 because of the tracks bipolar, schizophrenic turns – flipping, spinning, turning inside out.

‘Big City Buzz Band’ harbors samples as regulation as cowbell tinkling to as obscure as what sounds like when you punched someone on Streetfighter II.  ‘Lady Bug Lady Bug’ opens with a metal riff that could have just as easily have been jacked off a Slipknot album – evaporating quickly into post dub-step inspired dips and wobbles.  Alluring and disturbing – this album explores the abstract with its huge genre spans to remarkable effect.

‘Post Death Sales Spike’ ominous opening provokes memories of Vangelis and his evocative score to BBlade Runner although when asked about this track conformist suggested he was more of a fan of Enrico Ennio Morricone. This track is a loose tribute to a friend who committed suicide 5 years ago who Conformist suggests “would’ve appreciated the Irony.”

Simmons’ immense collage of sound could at first listen seem as arbitrary. Further listens occur and the textures emerge – different levels of sound, interesting and engulfing rhythm that was missed first time around. The tracks are anything but arbitrary but are clearly a very careful selection chosen over a three year period that are as disorientating as they are challenging and intriguing.

Full of ideas and questions – tangential and sporadic,  this album will grip you and refuse to let go. It is essentially a deconstruction of everyday banality. Television Radio, Adverts, games. Reformed – the banal comes as interesting as anything we have heard before.


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