Charismatic braindance from the one-time Rephlex regular.
Hidden in the stream of obfuscating nonsense that dominates his interviews are telling character cues, like "The only thing that really embarrasses me is lack of humility." Text scrawled on an insert in the vinyl edition of Rave 'Till You Cry reads, in part, "Put away the arrogance and pride, and boast and bias. With each word uttered, your mystery wanes. Your shimmer dims." He asks elsewhere, when you're contemplating life on your deathbed, will you be able to look yourself in your mind's eye and know with conviction that you hadn't "wasted away your true sound?"
Here emerges the outline of a person who sees being an artist as a deadly serious reckoning with your essential self. While he could've better promoted his career by playing the game, this perspective hopefully suggests he has no regrets when it comes to the music itself. While we give ourselves up to the optics of success over artistic substance, Raczynski has the honesty to show that the stakes are higher than you think and that, at the bitter end, you only have yourself to lose.
It's this resolution that makes the music on Rave 'Till You Cry feel so effortlessly vital, which might sound a bit strange given it's a collection of old braindance tunes. Despite having taken the decision to stop making music a decade ago, Raczynski's archive vividly communicates his signature mix of existential crisis, comic absurdity and childlike glee. The wilfully confusing titles reflect the almost pointless task of trying to talk about the tracks individually, which function more like shards in a mosaic than complete pictures. No track runs for more than four minutes and many barely break two, further emphasising the whole over the parts and making for a surprisingly light-footed listen for an 18-track compilation.
What sticks out across the set isn't just that tension between crisis and glee, but also our inability to always identify which is which. The reedy, almost cheap-sounding quality of Raczynski's dextrous melodies can have an overblown theatrical quality to them, calling to mind how honky-tonk pianos had to communicate emotional cues to the audience in silent theatres. But crucially, there's something of the sad clown to Rave 'Till You Cry, a sense of a pain hidden below layers of paint, gaudy dress and wacky movements, especially so on "307 33m15." This is reinforced by unpolished, deteriorated drum textures, which sound forced against their will to perform impossibly complex tricks for their controllers' amusement, passing from musically intricate ("329 15h") to sadistically violent ("355 44ir").
There are a lot of brittle breaks that call to mind breakcore. But while the drums have the potential to bludgeon, the combination of playful programming and storytelling melodies often comes off cartoon-esque, like on "213 213r." It could be confused for saccharine sentimentality or even irony if it didn't conjure up genuine pangs of childlike naivety. It's an affect endemic to braindance, but Raczynski makes it feel like a genuine reflection of his personality rather than an unhealthy Aphex obsession.
While affecting melody and rampaging rhythms are defining traits of Rave 'Till You Cry, it's darker, sleeker moments have a special staying power. "220 s3d" is a perfectly executed electro track, while "220 s2c" pulls a similar trick for fast, hardcore-leaning techno. "306 24n812" sounds like a crew of hooligans ransacked Source Direct's studio. Then there's "156 s2n," another agonisingly brief yet nigh-on perfect composition that shows Raczynski can also evoke mystery and fear of the unknown.
Another line in the message scrawled on the vinyl insert says, "To hell with the dawdling interviews and vanity shots. One turns to music precisely because it least resembles what's in the mirror." While Rave 'Till You Cry might be Raczynski attempting to transcend his reality and the depressing shallowness he sees in his more aspirational peers, it ironically says quite a lot more about the man than being sick of himself and pissed off at commercially successful artists. Rave 'Till You Cry shows that, in the right hands, braindance is flexible enough to create nuanced, multilayered portraits with the unfiltered intimacy of a diary.