Austria’s Dorian Concept, aka Oliver Thomas Johnson, first caught attention via YouTube clips that depicted him manipulating synth textures in real time on a Micro Korg (he received more than a million views). His nimble knob-tweaking was fun to watch, but even more fun were the sounds it produced: Johnson’s music was squirrely, vivid and rich, shining hip-hop and techno through a fisheye lens with cracks in it. His beats juggled his improvised synths like a hacky sack, and part of the thrill was seeing how long he could keep it up.
That thrill is largely missing from his sophomore album and Ninja Tune debut, Joined Ends, which is enjoyable if not exactly exhilarating downtempo in the style of Bonobo or Nosaj Thing. On Joined Ends, Johnson ditches his Micro Korg for new instruments, and takes more time with the record than he had with previous releases. The result is sturdy and safe, a collection of vertiginous breakbeats that alternate between cheerfully futuristic and menacingly dystopian — The Jetsons one minute, Blade Runner the next. “Draft Culture” is the latter, its sputtering groove and blaring synths evoking road rage in an age of hover-cars, whereas songs like “Clap Track 4″ and “Nest Nest” are brighter and more pastoral, with voices gently singing over beds of chimes and strings. The tracks get you moving, but they’re not as interesting as earlier compositions such as “Trilingual Dance Sexperience” (which lives up to its name). This is a record for head bobbing, not head scratching.