Of all the acts currently corralled within the American "Intelligent Dance Music" community, Richard Bailey's Proem is perhaps one of the oddest fits. Known for his dexterity, a lone Proem "song" can offer more breakdowns than a Pinto and as many hairpin turns as a Porsche. To dance to Proem would require suffering from a disease as yet undiscovered. The body would need to jitter as if electrified and the ears would require cauterizing to keep the brain from wafting out dreamily into space. To Bailey, it is "industrial without words" in which "the intensity of death metal" is captured through "geeky electronics."
To namedrop, comparisons to 90s Autechre, Public Energy-era Speedy J, Amon Tobin and Clark work. But with a catalog of nearly twenty EPs, LPs and 7" singles, any comparison is temporary. One consistency throughout Proemland is the calculated puzzle that comprises each release. The job of the listener seems almost to involve dismantling each work in the opposite order of its construction--to find the essence or initial muse amid an unpredictable web of rising and falling repetition, scattershot rhythms, voluminous ambience and grinding electronics. Yet for those willing to accept Bailey's vision as-is, the ride is just as easily savored.
On his latest Proem opus, Enough Conflict, Bailey expands his role as "designer of controlled randomness" by augmenting his expansive computer-based arsenal with outboard hardware for the first time. Nonetheless, his "damn the manual" attitude to sound design still yields the vivid pallet of exotic tones that his fans expect. While no stranger to spending hours tweaking a single sound--not to mention his admitted love for mathcore--what keeps Proem from becoming lost in the fast growing field of left-brained mathtronica is his insistence on an emotional core to his music. Richard Bailey does not make tracks. He programs dirges.
Enough Conflict is an album without rules wherein slow-burning piano drags coalesce with moshpit-worthy jagged disco runs and lofty ambient passages capitulate to walls of noise. But despite such ostensible randomness--a characteristic Bailey enjoys--there remains a human behind the wheel. "Life," he says, "is ridiculous, confusing, hilarious and brief. Your art should always be a reflection of that." There is no greater or more refined example of this ethos in the Proem canon than Enough Conflict. As unlikely as it seems that a linear path would exist in a career rooted in chaos, one does and this is its apex.