Rex Kalibur – Fragmentum

A few months ago, I wrote about Rex Kalibur, the pseudonym of Joshua Tree-based artist David M. Young. He’s just released a new record, Fragmentum.

Throughout his catalog—which is extensive given the fact he’s only been releasing music actively since 2020—Young has consistently explored themes related to nature, and particularly the California desert in which he’s immersed himself. In this sense, Fragmentum fits right in with his other records. It’s still distinctly desert music; textural and vast, but clean in a way that I can only describe as sand-washed or sun-bleached. Not in any way sterile, but also somehow purified. However, this is a less conceptual record than most of Young’s previous releases, many of which are written in the context of relatively prescriptive philosophical or technical frameworks. The record I previously wrote about, Lopen, attempted to use learning model-constructed sample generation to bridge the gap between the human and the artificial. (Just a fun note, I mentioned last time that the song “Sidequest LM” sounded like music you might have heard in an Ecco the Dolphin game. It turns out that Young’s father, also a composer, actually did the music for some of the Ecco games.)

Fragmentum is looser than Young’s previous work, and better for it. Straddling that middle ground between full length and EP, the record is nine songs—all fully realized thoughts of varying levels of complexity—but only twenty-two minutes runtime. It’s a collection of otherwise unconnected pieces that Young wrote over the past few years, without any uniform academic structure around them, nor produced using any strict sound palette (hence the title’s allusion to fragments). Instead, they’re tied together more instinctually, by Young’s sense that they belong together, which I think has led to a richer holistic experience than some of his previous work.

Fragmentum‘s opener, “Machine Dreams of Living” is the album’s standout. Its title doesn’t do it justice. This is not simply a robot’s melodramatic lament. It feels more like a song to serve as backdrop for the collective wail of a generation of machines left to rust in the desert for lifetimes after humanity’s extinction. Sure, the machines might outlast us, but will they have anything to live for once we’re gone? Another high point is “Finding Your Place,” which sounds to me a bit like a broken-hearted Joey Santiago pining for a cyberpunk cowgirl. The song’s liberal use of guitar is a good example of the stylistic freedom Young gives himself on this record. If it fits, use it. The final song, “Pedestrian” is aptly titled, it’s the only song on the album that communicates much palpable anxiety—it’s as if it’s a song about being forced out of nature and into a throng; surrounded by people instead of the desert, all that purity is suddenly sullied; space replaced by claustrophobia. But that’s not to say it’s a low point. It’s more like being let down easy.

At first blush, Fragmentum might feel like an introspective record, and it’s certainly personal. But like the rest of the Rex Kalibur catalog, this is music that looks primarily upward and outward. Young is in touch with the natural world around him as much as he’s in touch with himself, and in the desert, you get a great view of the sky.

Fragmentum is out now on bandcamp, or for streaming.


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