Rapper, producer, and Magic: the Gathering enthusiast Rjyan Kidwell, aka Cex, is one of the most consistently underrated and constantly adventurous musicians of the past decade. A few years ago, around the time his slightly tweaked, slightly too-cute electro-rap started to earn him a measure of popularity, he blew his crossover potential by taking a hard turn into abstract tribal psychedelia, and he's been wandering from sound to sound ever since, apparently completely free of concern about the usual metrics for music-career success—like how much of your remaining audience each new stylistic shift drives off. There probably aren't too many people, aside from Kidwell himself, who like everything he's done—actually, I haven't talked to him in a while, so far all I know he might not even like everything he's done anymore—but you have to respect his gutsiness.
I like what he's been fucking with recently as much as and maybe more than any of his past output. A batch of new songs posted by the Tigerbeat6 label introduce us to a style they've dubbed "freedom club," an unlikely yet vigorous hybrid of Baltimore club and Warp Records-style ambient electronica. The B-more element gives the fusion a solid, body-rocking heft that art-tronica stuff tends to lack, and the ambient part replaces B-more's usual "we'll do anything to make you dance" pandering—which, don't get me wrong, is exactly what makes it so amazing—with a cerebral iciness that it wears surprisingly well.
The new Cex album, Bataille Royale, is out now.