Pathways by Ed:it

Ed:it - Pathways

You step into a translucent orb, dimly lit by aqueous hues of blue. You exhale, watch the visible air leave your body, and slowly look around at the impenetrable blackness residing on the other side of the orb’s glass. A droplet of liquid spatters onto your forehead. You step back, and watch the steady drip fall onto the floor. After ten droplets descend, the orb roars to life and the darkness is replaced by flashing, colored lights. The orb is moving, and fast . . .

You can’t go wrong with drum & bass. The rapid-fire rhythms are intoxicating and, depending on the producer’s chosen palettes, the elements surrounding those rhythms can be just as compelling in a melodic sense. Standing out from the hoard of d&b creators is something entirely different, and requires an elegant balancing act. Pathways is the newest release from Nottingham-based producer Ed Warrener, AKA Ed:it.

Warrener utilizes a highly refined formula in his drum & bass creations; foundations of agile, hard-hitting drum beats are accentuated with subtle percussion, otherworldly samples, and tender-hearted synth melodies, all combining to form compositions that are gorgeous and intense in equal amounts. There’s a finesse in the progressions and transitions that make these four songs more captivating than many full-length records.

Drum & bass producers often have a penchant for either making their tracks as soft and unimposing, or as pummeling as humanly possible; but this isn’t so for Warrener, who dresses his instrumentals in twinkling accoutrements, while bringing them to life with roaring bass and collaborations with Linguistics and Pennygiles. Pathways is soulful, and it’s also fierce. If you’re seeking melodic, hard-hitting drum & bass, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

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Pathways by Ed:it

Commontime by Field Music

Field Music - Commontime

With a tinge of pep in your step, you stride along a garden path and through the open door of a modest two-story house. The living room is spacious and empty, the same as every room on the first floor. Your feet carry you up the stairs. You hear a rhythm now, audible this time. You open the first door on the right, revealing a man playing the drums and staring at you. Another door reveals two individuals on bass and guitar. One more contains two singers . . .

‘Pop’ and ‘experimentation’ are inherently counterweights; the former encompasses the accepted sounds of the masses, while the latter delves into the unknown, in search of new musical elements. However, there exist artists so adept in contorting their fresh discoveries, that they emerge from the laboratory in readily consumable form. Commontime is the newest full-length from Sunderland-based band Field Music.

For over a decade, brothers Peter and David Brewis (complimented by a revolving cast of supporting musicians) have reveled in elegantly-composed pop know-how, crafting songs that radiate in their subtle intricacies just as much as in their irresistible, harmony-laden hooks. Jazzy, funky, and adorned with multitudes of diverse instrumentation, these 14 compositions are captivating in conception and performance.

As can be expected from siblings late in their conjoined careers, the Brewis brothers possess a rare creative chemistry, and this record serves as a collection of conversations; between the individual band members, various loved ones, and also their fans. Like younger brothers of the legendary XTC, Field Music are masterful in the art of charismatic pop. If you’re seeking funky, jazzy, erudite pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Commontime by Field Music

Fones by MssingNo

MssingNo - Fones

Bustling machinery surrounds you, and begins to roar with exuberant life. Panels slide in every which way, compartments open and close, and a colossal door slowly rises in front of you. You step through, and into a hallway adorned with cylindrical glass containers on either side. You can’t see anything through the fogged-up transparency of the cylinders, until you arrive at the largest at the end of the corridor. A woman sits inside. She starts to sing . . .

Genre hybrids are what keep music interesting and consistently evolving. The more disparate the styles are from each other, the weightier the risk of incoherent clashing, but also the greater the potential for unique magic to occur. It’s a tightrope-walk, but even that perilous activity sounds more plausible than the marriage of r&b and grime. Fones is the newest releases from anonymous London-born producer MssingNo.

Most artists that contort the sultry vocal samples of r&b tend to do so in an effort to fill the holes in their instrumentals, but the advantage of this particular artist is his masterful ability to create productions that cradle featured singers, rather than swallow them up. MssingNo crafts compelling, grime-tinged arrangements, with distinct flavors of Burial and Timbaland, that lovingly embrace the pitch-shifted, ethereal voices.

In most cases when singers are involved, a producer shouldn’t stand out from behind the control panel. Restraint is crucial, especially when merging two elements as seemingly discordant as grime and r&b, and it’s a component that MssingNo utilizes in the most tasteful of ways. This brief collection of songs is otherworldly, sexy, and captivating throughout. If you’re seeking ethereal r&b-grime, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Fones by MssingNo

Meditations/Industry by Bill Converse

Bill Converse - Meditations/Industry

You sit in darkness, surrounded by metal on the ocean floor. You stare at a sonar display for what seems like days, awaiting the most minuscule indication of nearby life. Suddenly, a blip appears on the screen, accompanied by a hollow PING sound. Something is drawing closer, and it looks colossal on the display. Fifty yards away. The walls of the submarine begin to vibrate. Twenty yards away. You hear distant, watery melodies. It’s on top of you now . . .

Acid-techno is a perplexing genre for a couple of reasons. For unseasoned listeners, the squiggly, slightly fuzzy melodies, and the meditative pace at which many compositions progress can be off-putting initially. The subtlety of the style requires close examination and a focused mind. Meditations/Industry is the newest full-length from Texan producer and veteran within the acid/techno tape-swapping community, Bill Converse.

This collection of tracks was compiled from straight-to-tape recordings created at the producer’s home studio, and there’s an organic quality to each of them. Converse steadily builds towers of aqueous synths and techno rhythms, fitting each moving piece perfectly within the overall instrumentals. Each melody is compelling, and every element works in tandem to form something that’s both captivating and zen-inducing.

The environments that Converse conceives of are vibrant, and they cradle listeners in a cushiony embrace that’s effortless to submit to. It’s stunningly graceful in its fluid progression from song to song, in a way that’s rare to find any type of music, let alone techno. Lastly, it’s able to be enjoyed as either a focused listening experience, or as a gorgeous backdrop. If you’re seeking effervescent acid-techno, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Meditations/Industry by Bill Converse

Tan by Lafawndah

Lafawndah - Tan

You wipe the sand from your eyes as you stumble through a stone door that slowly closes behind you. You are cast in complete darkness, having entered an unlit temple to escape the enveloping sandstorm outside, but at least you’re safe from the skin-shredding wind. A torch lights itself on your left, and another on your right. Others appear, and illuminate a corridor. You follow their lead, and emerge into a chamber. The boom of drums in the distance . . .

Artists that experience much of the world will oftentimes contort those diverse influences into elements that enhance the art that they create. Those type of impacts can arise from one of two things: 1. ancestral osmosis, or 2. individually seeking out new adventures, possibly in new lands. Tan is the newest release from Egyptian, Iranian, Paris-born singer-producer Lafawndah, who’s lived in New York, Mexico, and Tehran.

The versatile artist creates a unique breed of pop music that’s ripe with cultural collisions. The militaristic, trunk-rattling rhythms lean toward dance music and hip-hop sensibilities, while the darkly captivating synths entice with Eastern-sounding melodies. Lafawndah’s voice is a compelling presence, slightly resembling the glistening FKA twigs, but it’s her masterful application of ominous space that’s the most captivating.

There are risks taken on this record that most pop-leaning artists wouldn’t conceive of; off-kilter samples and melodic ideas that might make the close-minded cringe. These quirks are what set this collection of compositions apart from many others, because the listener never once questions the artist’s creative authenticity. Plus, it’s one of the most fun releases of the year. If you’re seeking worldly electronic pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Tan by Lafawndah

Big Black Coat by Junior Boys

Junior Boys - Big Black Coat

You stand before a large doorway cloaked in darkness. You brush the dirt away from a sign above the opening, revealing weathered engravings that spell out the words “Time Warp.” You step through the dank, dusty blackness. Your senses are immediately overtaken by a moment of piercing sound and blinding light. When it’s over, your eyes adjust to the new sight of a night club, filled with ebullient patrons. Before you realize, your feet begin to move . . .

Crafting music that sounds “sexy” is a difficult balancing act. The sounds have to drip with sensuality without collapsing into pastiche, but taking oneself too seriously often results in comedic outcomes. Artists are also melding the feet-moving sensibilities of dance music with seductive flavors, now more than ever. Big Black Coat is the newest full-length from Ontario-based duo Junior Boys, two longtime veterans of this style.

These guys are masterful in their approach to building compelling electronic instrumentals — containing elements of funk, house, disco, hip-hop, r&b, techno, and more — that perfectly accentuate the irresistibly sultry voice of singer Jeremy Greenspan. The songs have an irreverent quality that make them indispensably fun to listen to, but they’re also funny, self-aware, and filled with authentic passion.

The fact that this group still sounds this fresh after five records is an astounding feat, and it’s a testament to the duo’s ability to experiment in just the right amount without losing sight of what burns brightest in their songwriting: the uncanny merging of mind, body, and soul into a hip-shaking onslaught of melodically entrancing, rhythmically captivating, “sexy” music. If you’re seeking sensual electronic pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Big Black Coat by Junior Boys

Wabi-Sabi by Cross Record

Cross Record - Wabi-Sabi

You stare at a large painting depicting a pastoral scene. The vivid colors capture your senses with astonishing realism. You smell the pungent grass that the animals consume. You hear the babbling stream that rushes through the lush field. You feel the sunlight that beams down and warms all that exist below it. The paint appears to fly right off the canvas. A thunderous BOOM shakes your surroundings, and the paint does fly, surrounds you, transports you . . .

The potential for disparate musical elements to mix harmoniously never ceases to amaze me. Oftentimes, the result doesn’t always turn out so elegantly (I think we all remember Lou Reed’s short-lived soiree with Metallica on Lulu), but it can also be the saving grace for well-deserved artists that require only a tinge of flair. Wabi-Sabi is the newest full-length from husband-and-wife duo Cross Record, joined by Thor Harris.

Singer Emily Cross and multi-instrumentalist/producer Dan Duszynski revel in dreamy, folk-tinged songwriting on this record, accompanied by a women’s choir that expands the depth of the lush compositions. The wild card here is the tasteful addition of Swans drummer Thor Harris, who incorporates marimba, kalimba, and other percussive tools with stunning results. These songs are refreshing, entrancing, organic, and powerful.

The remote locale where the group recorded these songs (Dripping Springs, Texas) played a large part by influencing the quieter, more desolate-sounding moments of Wabi-Sabi, a title that roughly translates to “the acceptance of imperfection” in Japanese. There are tons of components that could be deemed “imperfect,” but they all mesh to form the contrary. If you’re seeking powerful, experimental folk, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Wabi-Sabi by Cross Record