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Maryland Mansions
Jade Tree Records

OK. So I have had this CD in the player for some time now with the intent of writing a review for it. Some time now, as in since December of '03. Why the long wait? What keeps me from just opening the text editor of choice and telling you what my opinion is, because we all know that, among other things, I am full of opinions? Well, that is hard to say, but I think it is because every time I listen to this album I have a different reaction. I think my meager mind is having a hard time sticking Cex's sound into a nice tidy box. This may be a good thing, however this may also be a bad thing.

I was handed the album, along with a couple others, to be reviewed as "hip-hop". I warn you now, do not listen to this album with the expectation of it being anything like traditional hip-hop, or, I am told, any of his prior albums. This, again, can be viewed as being either good or bad. Personally, it tends to be a particular frame of mind that dictates what music I will be listening to for the day. I am told this is called moodiness. What ever you care to call it, when I am expecting a particular noise, and something else comes out of the speakers I tend to react like someone who had cold water thrown on them. So needless to say my first reaction to Maryland Mansions was not a good one. After finding a towel, a blanket, and some warm tea, I took a second listen to the CD and I didn't have as frigid a response. As I listened I was reminded of Skinny Puppy, of all things; most notably The Process, which was thought to be their last album. In fact I swear I heard Puppy samples, which made me wonder if you can sample sampled samples, but I imagine that line of thought belongs in an editorial and not a review, so I move on. Not only were the beats and noise not really hip-hop, neither were the lyrics. When I think hip-hop, I think of KRS-One, Mos Def, or even Busta, of which Cex is not even close to. With the realization that this CD didn't belong in hip-hop, I, of course, mentally stuck the album in the "Industrial" bin. A few days (weeks) later when I was feeling that industrial feeling, I, of course, threw in Cex, and of course, here we go with the cold water again. As I sat there shivering I listened to "The Strong Suit", which DOES sound very hip-hop'ish, somewhat reminding me of Atmosphere, and I started cursing this trend of genre blurring.

Now before I get flamed for speaking ill of "innovation" I must quote a friend's very notable example of liking ice cream and liking sushi, but pointing out that sushi ice cream probably is not the best of ideas (although I am sure it is out there, and I am sure it is very yummy, I'll just have to take someone else's word on that one). I like the industrial noise and I like the hip-hop noise, but they just did not work together for me. With that said, I cannot say I didn't like the CD, or that I wouldn't recommend it. I cannot say that I liked the album either, and I recommend that if you enjoy a varied style of music, and that you have an open mind, that you would do well by checking out this disk. I am also told that the live show is, "interesting" to say the least. Cex, aka Ryan Kidwell and his laptop, are known for a wild and, sometimes, naked show and I will certainly check out his act when it gets to my town.

Perhaps I am just not "ready" for it, but if you enjoy sushi flavored ice cream Cex may be your bag.

-JD Sipes

Track Listing

1. I Drive Off a Mountain
2. Stop Eating
3. Take Pills
4. Kill Me
5. My Head
6. New Maps
7. Stilnaut Rjyan
8. Strong Suit


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