A Minor Thought by Moomin

Moomin - A Minor Thought

Your eyes open to the pink fluorescence of the new day’s sun rising from the ocean. The waves, flowing with the full moon’s influence, continue to crash boisterously onto the shore. The sand beneath you is cold, damp from the mist, but it begins to bake under the glaring sun. You rise to your feet and walk along the shoreline, until you come to a paltry-looking bungalow. You step inside, and emerge into a large room filled with dancing bodies . . .

I’m a firm believer in the holistic quality of dance music and its ritualistic ability to right the most potent of wrongs, but I empathize with those that can’t seem to connect with the extroverted facets of modern, club-primed sounds. Many forget that dance music can be introspective, that listeners can instead opt for dancing on the inside. A Minor Thought is the newest full-length from Berlin producer Sebastian Genz, AKA Moomin.

This record is the cure for the listener that adores the buoyant grooves of house music, but ails from a disdain for the genre’s rambunctiously imposing elements. Gone are the force-fed lead melodies, replaced with warm synths, ocean samples, and basslines that embrace passionately rather than pummel mercilessly. The song structures are simple, soft, and subtle, yet they emanate with vivid life and contain compelling ideas abound.

There’s no doubt that Genz is versatile in his production — his concoctions of live drums, latin percussion, and classic 808 programming are ingenious — but variety certainly isn’t the name of the game on this collection of music. This artist has a distinct sound that he revels within, and if you can get down with one of his creations, you’ll fall deep into the open arms of the rest. If you’re seeking warm, dreamy house, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

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A Minor Thought by Moomin

Through The Blinds by Blair French

Blair French - Through The Blinds

You step into a small cubic container, adorned with countless minuscule projectors along the walls, ceiling, and floor. You begin to feel claustrophobic after a short while, so you close your eyes and think of somewhere comfortable. Not a minute passes before a delicate breeze tousles your hair. Your eyelids part to reveal a boundless meadow. Your mind drifts, and invokes the image of a warm sunset. Stars peak out from the darkness that follows . . .

Ambient music excels at painting images in the minds of listeners, probably to a greater degree than any other genre. The steady, subtle progressions allow for the full absorption of every sonic element, and the sparse instrumentation promotes a meditative, imaginative mindset. Through The Blinds is the newest full-length from Michigan-based producer Blair French, an artist who creates landscapes with ambience.

French does an extraordinary job at illustrating the imagery conveyed in the various track titles — “Star Dust” rises and sparkles with celestial synths, “Window Frost” sounds frigid and fragile — employing a plethora of electronic and classical instrumentation with marvelous results. Each song is serene and awe-inspiring in unique ways; some drift through tranquil beauty, while others grow and evolve through stunning progressions.

Having previously tackled the desolate sounds of Detroit on film soundtrack Detropia under the name Dial 81, the enigmatic producer opts for an organic, lively, and simply gorgeous style on Through The Blinds. It could operate as a sweeping score for a movie, but the true beauty is revealed when the listener imagines the accompanying visuals. If you’re seeking picturesque ambient music, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Through The Blinds by Blair French

Deepcore by Locklead

uttu059-locklead

Strobe lights flash from every corner of the room, distorting your perspective of the undulating crowd that surrounds you. How did you get here? Sweat drips from your body, soaking your clothes and causing your hair to become matted. You really don’t remember how you got here? The floor rumbles, the bass shakes your ribcage, and you are tossed around the tangled mass of moving limbs. You try to remember, but the bass takes you . . .

House is a genre with countless sub-species; you’ve got your deep, acid, progressive, and tech renditions, all of which rely on the strength of driving bass-lines, but none highlight the low-end to quite the same degree as the charming sub-genre known as Bassline. Utrecht, Holland is currently dominating the bass-driven house scene, thanks to artists such as this one. Deepcore is the newest release from Dutch producer Locklead.

Three tracks are all this producer requires in order to stake his claim in the realm of dance music; three tracks overflowing with skittering garage house rhythms, colossal bass-lines, and subterranean atmosphere. Clinking bottles, MC shout-outs, underground rave synths, and sirens accentuate the pulsing instrumentation, adding a retro, crowd-pleasing quality without submerging the compositions in pastiche.

Bassline (the genre) can be perplexing to a first-time listener; the heavy emphasis on drums and bass with a distinct lack in the melodic department, and the extreme subtlety in progressions can throw many for a loop. It’s normal to search for a standout vocal or lead melody, but attuning oneself to the bass will reveal the many treasures that this style holds. If you’re seeking bass-driven garage house, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Deepcore by Locklead

Escapements by Beacon

Beacon - Escapements

A cloaked wraith hovers in front of you, its face shrouded by a hood. It slowly floats backward into the mouth of a cavern, beckoning you with its shriveled finger. Fear envelops your mind, but your feet carry you forward. Glowing insects canvas the catacomb walls, illuminating the path taken by the phantom. After a long while, you emerge into a chamber bathed in sickly green light. The ground begins to vibrate, undulating in rhythm. The wraith begins to sing . . .

Restraint is what sets apart overindulgent artists from the ones that would rather take advantage of the wide range of dynamics available in music creation. What’s heard is just as important as what isn’t, as space allows the listener to focus on what’s most important in a composition. Starting with less also allows progression to more, and to higher peaks. Escapements is the newest full-length from New York-based band Beacon.

The duo of Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett craft unique concoctions of minimal IDM and electronic pop. Mullarney’s ethereally tender voice is a compelling presence, floating through foggy synths and subtly propulsive rhythms like a phantom. Tycho drummer Rory O’Connor was brought in for this album, and his inclusion fills out the mixes by adding layers of lively energy to the predominantly synthetic instrumentation.

Time is a constant theme across this record; ‘escapements’ are timekeeping regulators in clocks, while the cover image shows a time-lapse image of our planet’s rotation. The two artists gracefully explore concepts under this umbrella descriptor, and the result is a enthralling collection of songs that defy categorization, allowing the listener to become lost in the sounds. If you’re seeking ethereal, IDM-tinged pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Escapements by Beacon

Man Made Object by GoGo Penguin

GoGo Penguin - Man Made Object

You jump from hammer to hammer, pressing down until they strike the taut wires below. A sliver of light cuts through the darkness, dimly illuminating your pathway across the falling platforms. Pristine tones accompany the strikes, resonating through your surroundings and vibrating your entire body. The roof above ascends, showering you in blinding light. You crawl out and sit on a narrow cliff, looking down on large hands over black and white keys . . .

Jazz is cool again, thank heavens. Residing on the fringe of obscure music tastes for too long, the genre made a recent resurgence as a vessel for artists outside the realm of jazz, permeating the sounds of rock (David Bowie), soul (Kamasi Washington), hip-hop (Kendrick Lamar), and especially electronica. Man Made Object is a pristine example of that last one, and the newest full-length from Manchester band GoGo Penguin.

The trio of pianist Chris Illingworth, drummer Rob Turner, and bassist Nick Blacka are masterful in their ability to mix flavors of grandiose classical and experimental electronic music with their unique breed of improvisation-heavy jazz. These compositions are predominantly upbeat, groove-filled, piano-led affairs (vaguely resembling Robert Glasper), but the musicians individually and collectively radiate in equal amount.

If an inkling of jazz interest can be found within a listener, the sounds of GoGo Penguin are an excellent entry-point; they also cater to those that can call themselves enthusiasts of the genre. Man Made Object is a rarity: a collection of songs so undemanding on the surface, yet so intricately compelling at its core, that nearly any kind of listener can become infatuated with it. If you’re seeking euphonious jazz, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Man Made Object by GoGo Penguin

Animal Eclipse by Lance Neptune

Lance Neptune - Animal Eclipse

You step off a dock, and into a wobbly boat. The vessel steadily floats away from the wooden peninsula, and carries you out of the cave’s mouth. You can’t believe what your eyes fall upon: a towering palace canvassed in pristine emerald. Multitudes of colored lights blink from the inside, and are refracted through the gems like prisms, illuminating the night sky. Twinkling melodies swarm your ears and grow in volume as you near the structure’s open gate . . . 

When the topic of genre preference is broached in a music conversation, the word ‘ambient’ seldom arises, most likely because of its lack of primary focus on the rhythm section, or it might be the glacial pace at which songs progress. Now, the term ‘house’ is one that comes up far more often; but should they be intertwined? Animal Eclipse is the answer to that, and the newest release from Maryland producer Lance Neptune.

Across a brief six-song EP, Neptune dazzles with ambient-house hybrids, highlighting the most compelling aspects of each genre and sewing them together seamlessly. The solely ambient tracks that bookend the record consist of glistening, sun-drenched synths and enveloping nature samples, while the album’s core revels in club-primed, garage-house-leaning beats drenched in starry-eyed melodies, grooving bass, and mantra-like vocals.

There’s something distinctly dream-like about the environments that Neptune builds with his compositions. The producer is clearly proficient with sound design, as each song wraps around listeners with lush mixing and transportive field samples. Animal Eclipse is a short plunge into a vivid imagination, with both meditative ambience and enticing grooves abound. If you’re seeking glistening ambient-house, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Animal Eclipse by Lance Neptune

Mowing by Michael Nau

Michael Nau - Mowing

There exists a rickety old house on the shores of a nearby river. It serves as a temporary home for traveling artists of all species and doctrines. A smokiness hangs on the air that wafts from the doorway. Rooms are dimly lit by shards of sunlight that cut through bulky curtains, and music is always present. Individuals arrive, they live comfortably for a short or long while, and they depart, leaving no trace. A husband and wife step onto the makeshift stage . . .

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and warmth drips from every note. There exist few artists that possess the rare ability to convey that most pleasant of all feelings, the cradling embrace of songs that radiate like the sun; there exist even fewer that can infuse those euphonious sounds with compelling ideas. Mowing is the debut solo full-length from singer-songwriter and Page France/Cotton Jones frontman Michael Nau.

There’s a hypnotic aura to Nau’s acoustic guitar-centered compositions, which gracefully cascade through various americana-tinged sub-genres. Mixtures of slack indie-rock are flavored with gospel harmonies, latin instrumentation, reggae rhythms, and more than a few ethereal samples. Nau’s weathered voice is charismatic, and his ability to subtly arrange multitudes of compelling elements into deceptive simplicity is masterful.

These songs are living, breathing entities, and that’s most clearly shown in “Maralou”, a duet between Nau and his wife/bandmate Whitney McGraw. The track is one of the shortest on the record at just under three minutes, but the love between the two emanates in the form of effortless, undemanding beauty. Mowing provides respite in a captivating way. If you’re seeking warm, enchanting indie-rock, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Mowing by Michael Nau