Remember, cockroaches survive when the world ends. This year, we’ve experienced the end of life and death as we understand it. On his third release Age of Roaches, Kid Dakota (Darren Jackson) embarks on an existential sonic survival trip. The record, released on Graveface Records, meets the moment with a fury.
Opener “Age of Roaches” sets the tone for the album’s eight tracks, telling the tale of a world that has succumbed to society’s destruction. Plodding and hopeful, there is a plaintive innocence, like a wandering minstrel working to figure out the end of the world. Rich harmonies with weird echoes evoke a cacophony of confusion. Roaches, here we go! “Homesick” flows like that uptempo escape to nowhere. It’s sonically harsh rock with an almost Phantom of the Opera feel. “Prairie Flowers” descends into the darkness of Jackson’s vocal tone. Stunning, stark, and plaintive, this track is the defining moment of the album. It echoes with absence. Carefully chosen samples propel this song beyond its brilliant lyricism.
“Two Days” feels like the gunfighter failing to save the day. Restrained instrumentation and stellar mixes makes this song feel like a ghost town, with the timbre of Jackson’s vocal the shining instrument on this cut. Each note purposeful, “Cold War” sets in to a plodding, methodical dissection. The track keeps an ethereal harmonica thread as a point of connection.
Jackson’s engineering team–Alan Sparhawk, Jake Larson, John Kuker, Nick Tveitbakk, Justin Korhonen, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Kevin Bowe, and Jackson himself–makes the album shine. Boiler Room Mastering’s Collin Jordan helps create the immersive experience of notes and lyrics woven together in an intricate tapestry. Sequencing is the hidden star of this record that produces a listener’s immersive experience; the perfect ordering of the songs should share the production credits just as much as the mixing and mastering.
Heading out of the record, “Stephen Hawking” continues to contemplate humanity’s existence through a cacophony of sound. (Even darkness finds light.) Such is the case in “Futurecide,” via its essence of 1970s surf music. Its upbeat, infectious, light optimism contrasts with surgically precise lyricism. It’s like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys befriending Charles Manson. Where does darkness swallow the light; or is it vice versa?
Kid Dakota’s Age of Roaches certainly was engineered with the audiophile in mind. The record is a true sonic treat, dark survivalist imagery and all. Perfectly textured, each note perfectly positioned for the surround sound experience, this is an album meant to be heard from front to back.–Lisa Whealy