Deepak Verbera, the third LP by Austin's Spencer Stephenson aka BOTANY, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer's first two records into meterless cosmic territory, juxtaposing free jazz arrhythmia with cathedral-filling harmony, ringing off the temple walls with soaring grandeur. The billowing textures that loomed behind his previous output break unabashedly into the foreground, shedding the beats that once stenciled them in. What arises in the absence of discernable rhythm is a psych-inflected scrapbook of atmospheres with tremendous sonic and emotional breadth. In essence Deepak Verbera is a soundscape record created through methods usually found in hip-hop; vinyl samples, looped vocal phrases, pulsing bass, and warm synths all shimmer with kosmische-indebted splendor, like Popol Vuh with MPCs and a stack of secondhand records.
Under the Botany moniker, Spencer Stephenson creates rich psychological and emotional experiences through audio. His music is a thoughtful attempt to convey the non-verbal through his particular mental prism, where sounds have potent symbolism in ways that are all but forgotten in the hermetic modern world. He explains, “Sounds have archetypal connections to things in nature the same way visual symbols do. Low-end might be associated with thunder, or the sound of a mother's heartbeat as heard from inside the womb, or an approaching stampede, or earthquake. Low-end generally indicates something bigger and more powerful than you. Treble sounds indicate something deadly rattling through foliage or something vital like water flowing close by. Reverberation has a connection to the holy and transcendent, it implies spatial largeness. It’s fun to hear these symbols coming out of ear-buds in a world where they aren’t useful on a daily basis, but are still so subconsciously powerful." Though Stephenson sees these constituent signi ers, he has a holistic vision of music "...functioning as a single pulsating thing, instead of a band with distinct parts," which parallels his idea of the universe as an ever emergent, single conscious entity-- a concept he ends spiritually gratifying, and one that’s pervasive in his music. On Dimming Awe, the Light is Raw, the 28-year-old producer and composer continues dissolving the borders between his disparate-yet-beloved psych, hip hop, and ambient influences. Album standout "Au Revoir,” is a shimmering piece of sampler-psychedelia that bolsters verses by rapper Milo, and gracefully leads into the drum-less hum and crackle of “Birthjays”. Matthewdavid—the high-priest of ambient bass himself—lends a rare vocal feature to the uplifting burner “Glow-up" while the electro-inspired “Bad CGI” stitches Bambaataa chants and sci- flutters to a shamanic pulse, then morphs into a late-night opiated channel-sur ng montage, and the seams rarely appear. Unlike his previous album Lava Diviner (Truestory), which peaked and valley-ed through a narrative arc, Dimming Awe focuses on the artist's ever-unfolding, present state of mind. As a former jazz student, spiritual/free jazz philosophy regarding what he calls “emergent” music has increasingly become a guiding light when he creates. "The more emergent I let my music be when I'm making it, the more I like the result, it feels like a truer reflection. I feel like I am getting closer to doing that with computer-made music," he says. "This album is a document of what I do, not a statement in any explicit way. I feel like I'm moving closer to a jazz underpinning that I've always felt, philosophically more than aesthetically...making music feels more like exhaling as I grow older.”
Listeners familiar with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's previous album Euclid (an album that prompted Dazed to call her "...one of the most pioneering musicians in the world.") will no doubt notice her heavier use of vocals on her new album EARS. On all but one song, her gently ecstatic swells of vocals emerge to soar over a dense jungle of synths and woodwinds. After initially composing on a Buchla analog synth, she wrote arrangements for a woodwind quintet, added vocals, and further refined the pieces with granular synthesis techniques she developed in her sound design work (she contributed sound design to Panda Bear's "Boys Latin" video, and handled sound design and original compositions for Brasilia co-written by and starring Reggie Watts). Kinetic arpeggios of synths pulse, often buoying her graceful vocal mantras, while woodwinds breathe and flutter, emulating the wildlife Smith observed while growing up on the West Coast (she even studied recordings of slowed down bird calls prior to composing these pieces). Though some of her gestures echo the musical tropes used by early minimalist composers, the world she creates on EARS is uniquely hypnotic and full of life, not unlike Miyzaki's film Nausicaa, which she cites as an inspiration.
From the moment you hear the bristling boom-bap chorus on album-opener "Totally Mutual Feeling," it's apparent that Lushlife's third full-length finds the Philadelphia rapper-producer at his most introspective. Themes of isolation and mortality permeate Ritualize, a cinematic hour-long odyssey co-produced by enigmatic production trio, CSLSX (pronounced "Casual Sex") and featuring contributions from Ariel Pink, Killer Mike, Marissa Nadler, RJD2, and more. With CSLSX at the boards, an entire universe opens up for Lush, where the pulsating Juno synths of '80s LA night music sit side-by-side with gorgeously propulsive indie-leaning jams, and low-fi soul burners too. The resulting LP is a post-blog-era joint that seems to exhale the whole of the 20th century in a single, fascinating breath.
Written and recorded at the same time as their recent full-length Split Stones, the New Varieties EP continues Lymbyc Systym’s exploration of the power of disparate halves coming together to form a unique whole. The idea serves as an analogy for brothers Jared and Mike Bell's long-distance relationship, as well as their compositions—a unique synthesis of live emotion and electronic precision. Picking up where their last album left o, the EP’s upbeat opening track “Opposing Bodies” features the same melody found on “Scientic Romance”, the nal song on Split Stones. Exploring darker and more introspective territory, “Dierential” features big reverberating snare hits, emulating the crack of a whip often heard in old Spaghetti Westerns. On the album’s anthemic title track “New Varieties,” the band brings back their powerful Clavinet sound paired against Brazilian influenced rhythms and cascading piano lines. Interestingly, to create the lead melodies on all three tracks, they initially wrote and recorded one melody, and then chopped and rearranged each one to create a new melody. As Jared explains, “The lead lines emphasize a strong vocal quality, but with a bit too much diverse movement. If you tried to sing it, it would come out feeling chaotic—in essence, somewhere halfway between something human and machine.” Throughout New Varieties, Lymbyc Systym's unique balance of organic and synthetic elements has led them to create some of the most emotional and mature material of their career. The EP closes with Austin-based producer Botany's remix of "Opposing Bodies," turning Lymbyc's clean, head-bobbing rhythms and infectious arpeggios into a gauzy, mindbending soundscape of smeared textures and chaotic rhythms.
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