Rjyan Kidwell is a freak and there's no getting around the fact. Across five albums as Cex, exploring clattering, spasmodic drill & bass, dark, mechanistic IDM, lumbering, glitched-up industrial and even offbeat white-boy rap, the single uniting feature is a sense of odd despondency which Kidwell mocks even as he wallows.
"I've kinda known for a while there isn't a chance of someone getting really into my stuff except by accident, unless they feel intense alienation," says Kidwell.
Drawing on his early musical loves of lo-fi mope songwriters and the tundra-like barrenness of experimental techno, he's forged a dysfunctional confessional electronica comparable to Lou Barlow covering Aphex Twin. Even his live shows are a mess due to his rebellious inability to do what's expected of him, i.e., play his latest music.
"There's still times I get a talk-to from the manager, like 'Rjyan, you know, it'd be really nice if you showed up at work in your uniform instead of just a necklace with a bone on it,'" he says. "I keep thinking I'm going to roll up to one of these venues and there's going to be guys in suits and fedoras at the front door, saying, 'All right, this has gone far enough.' So anytime there is an audience I want to make them work for me and squeeze as much juice out of them as I can."
His new album, Maryland Mansions, features more melody than usual, as well as compositions that come perilously close to being songs ("I get high more often now," he says). Ever vigilant of hiding the freakier sides of his personality lest someone discover what a freak he truly is, Kidwell lies awake at night worrying he's not acting weird enough.
"I go to bed crossing my fingers that deep down my sensibility is twisted enough that even when I'm afraid I'm being too normal that it's not working," he says.