(Hop Skip Jump)
Neat Beats mastermind Alvin Fenner must be a patient guy—Cosmic Surgery was painstakingly assembled out of an array of chopped-up beats and samples, the product of untold lonely hours spent behind a laptop, mixer and turntable. But all that work has paid off: Fenner's debut full-length is technically sophisticated, emotionally complex and purely enjoyable.
Fenner knows how to dice a sample right—in album highlight “Turning on the Large Hadron Collider,” he reverses, chops and loops a recording of Erik Satie being played on guitar, producing a sublime glimmering effect. But he also gets results when he isn't editing sounds to oblivion, as when he drops a recording of a father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike in closer “I Hope I Think of Bike Riding When I'm Dying.” As the man says, “Good job, sweetheart!” over a swell of reflective piano and chaotic free-jazz drumming, you can practically see your life flash before your eyes.
Fenner might take cues from iconoclasts like Flying Lotus, but he's not being experimental for experimentalism's sake. A lot of heart clearly went into Cosmic Surgery and it's all the more poignant for it.
Correction: The photo of Fenner printed with this review was erroneously credited to Jon Blaj. That's who Fenner told us to credit it to. In fact, the photo was taken by Mike Fogarty.