Speedy-J (Jochem Paap) is one of those rare electronic artists who redefines sound itself. Having gotten his start (and his nickname, Speedy-J) from throwing together the quickest mixes of rave and early techno at the turn of the '90s, Paap learned that his talents lie in producing sound. He set forth with Ginger, a dynamic dance-listening hybrid album in the famed Artificial Intelligence series on Warp Records, then made a new name for himself as an insightful remixer and electronic composer on the subsequent post-techno album G-Spot.
In 1997, Paap cauterized his followers with Public Energy No. 1, a harshly textured series of tracks that teased the dancefloor with driving rhythms covered in shards of razor-sharp machine sounds. Along with Autechre and Aphex Twin, Speedy-J set the tone years ago for much of what's going on right now in electronic music. Three years on, A Shocking Hobby comes to light with a measured level of Public's grating digital processing madness, but today Paap is looking for new ground through the melodies that made his earliest releases so compelling.
The intro, "Terre Zippy," is a rapid descent into Speedy-J's new sonics, as though a freight elevator were whisking you to the core of the earth, first through the cavernous echos and shadowplay of "Borax," then through spidering veins of lava on "Ferber Mudd." The core of A Shocking Hobby is a cool place, where "Balk Acid" syncopates rapid, crystalline beats while keeping aloft a breezy three-chord melody. "Drill" shatters this delicate harmony with bass-quakes that would please most mullet-wearing, lowrider-driving hicks who listen to Sir Mix A Lot like it's still the bomb, but the sonic terror of "Vopak" and "Actor Nine" is so dissonant, they're reserved only for the most masochistic listeners. Interestingly, Paap chooses to ditch his otherworldly sounds on the album's closer, "Manhasset," for a piano arpeggio that evolves each time it descends. If only half of what Speedy-J accomplishes on A Shocking Hobby makes it to the surface three years from now, the world of electronic music will be a drastically different place.