Erik David Hidde—better known as Prison Escapee—is doing anything but escaping 2020 on his new album. Let’s explore this ambient, haunting, and truly topical record.
If 2020 is a prison we’ve all been convicted to, Erik David Hidde—better known as Prison Escapee—is not living up to his moniker. Quite the contrary, he’s metaphorically taking classes, leading support groups, and tending a garden in his new confines. His new album, not so subtly titled 20/20, paints a portrait of an artist that is deeply immersed in this year and the dire state of our troubled world.
The album’s lyrics address 2020 and the music sounds 2020. When Hidde laments on the New Order inspired “The Art of This,” “I don’t want to feel your pain, I don’t want to feel anything,” you can’t help but empathize.
Sonically, 20/20 is built around a lo-fi, field recording, synth-y, sample based ambiance that would make Aphex Twin proud. Songs like “At The Bottom of the River” or the opening to “Empty Wishes/Feeling Light” have no drums or rhythmic orientating elements at all. And even in the songs featuring post-rock drum loops, they are distant and tame. The result is music that feels lost in time. Much like this year, where I can’t remember if something happened last week or in June, these songs are more like landscapes than linear threads.
Hidde sings clearly and confidently, if not mournfully, with a voice that has shades of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. Many of the vocal lines sound more like spoken word with infliction’s than predetermined melodic phrases. I would actually like to ask Hidde what came first the melody or the lyrics? To my ear, it sounds like he wrote these haunting reflections in his journal while sitting in a park and then just let his voice take him wherever it felt natural. A particularly effective approach in this setting when you’re floating over a bed of ambient loops and don’t have to conform to rigid 8-bar chord patterns.
Once again, the result only reinforces the feeling of the year. I can’t tell you how many times I was listening to the album while following along with the lyrics and not knowing how he was going to fit those words into this passage. It reminded me of the countless times this year that a friend has called me in distress and I did not know how to respond.
I would describe the album as lo-fi, ambient, post-rock. It tows the line where you could listen to 20/20 as you fall asleep—albeit that may be a darker way to end the day—and alternatively, if you gassed up the drums it would make for a powerful live show. Hidde combines organic and electronic elements in a way that feels both contemporary and timeless.
The slow rolling “Patience/Human Interaction” anchored by a cello-like synth patch is a standout. Another favorite is the album’s closing track “The Holy Wild.” A powerful song with a beautifully ambient intro and a strikingly defined melodic hook.
After the complicated lyrical journey he’s taken you over the course of the album, when Hidde opens the song by singing, “I will never surrender my hope,” I was pleasantly reassured. And then when he continues, “keep me company in the cemetery and cope,” I paused and thought, for this album, and this year, that feels about right.
Stream all of 20/20 here: https://prisonescapee.bandcamp.com/album/20-20