Including this newest release, Rjyan Kidwell has released 3 different albums on three different labels in three years. Each album has found him making huge stylistic leaps, moving from melodic IDM to indie hip-hop and now onto something completely different. Coming as no surprise to those who have seen him live in the past year and a half, Maryland Mansions is not an homage in name alone. Channeling Reznor and Marilyn Manson himself, the release is 8 tracks that mixes the indie rock versus hip-hop sound of Being Ridden with a healthy dose of industrial.
Light years away from Oops I Did It Again, Maryland Mansions is still a fairly logical step in sound from his last release. Whereas that last release had a few heavier moments to offset the quiet ones, this one has a few quiet tracks to offset the heavier. There are few artists who make themselves as available to the public as Kidwell, and if the last year of his life is any indicator, this release shouldn't be any big surprise to anyone who has read entries on his website.
"Drive Off A Mountain" opens the disc with a filtered beat and guitars before letting loose with blasting choruses, and the lyrics of futility are just the start of cleansing to come. "Kill Me" clanks along with a heavy junkyard rhythm and malfunctioning robot sounds before again letting loose with blowout choruses. Even with the new edge on several tracks, the release is still all-over the place stylistically. "New Maps" opens with a barrage of noisy guitars but turns into a downtempo track that is one of the most sonically interesting tracks that Kidwell has ever created. "Stillnaut Rjyan" is an adventurous blast that spits out air-raid sirens, funky basslines, and what sounds like the Knight Rider theme over one of the best lyrical tracks on the disc.
Just when you think that the disc is all angst, it closes out with "The Strong Suit," a track that turns on the rest of the album both lyrically and musically, bouncing along with a fun horn-laced beat and vocals that makes you wonder how much Kjdwell is just playing around. Although there are some moments of greatness on the disc, it feels more like a cathartic vent-session than a well thought-out release. While some musicians his age are still trying to wring as many tears out of young female fans as possible, at least Kidwell is still taking some serious musical chances. While he may not succeed every time, the results are always interesting (and amazingly detailed and produced) at the very least.