Brahny – “Bloom”

The concept of nostalgia within music tends to be an elusive and intriguing one, but even more is the concept of induced nostalgia, the act of embedding the infamous inexpressible feeling into instrumentals or synthesized beats, either with or without the intent of doing so. Toronto producer and singer/songwriter Brahny has beautifully expressed his take on this phenomenon with his slew of singles as well as his EP Fresco Time Machine, all released just last year.  It’s clear everything he creates comes from a place of honest and thoughtful introspection, as heard in his meticulous compositions – “Bloom,” his newest release, not only emphasizes and utilizes his incredible vocal range, but his skill as a producer, placing mellow piano and bouncy, wobbly guitar tidbits juuuust above a thick veneer of bass, achieving that stunning reverberation signature within R&B and soul tracks. The accompanying music video, directed by Scott Zhang (also known as Monsune), feels just as indulgent as the single itself, Brahny succumbing to his own “nostalgia” in a haze of pink neon light, whatever that may be.

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Promises Ltd. – “Dreams”

Considering they come from the brilliant collaboration between Chrome Sparks’s Jeremy Malvin and Miniature Tigers’s Charlie Brand, its no surprise that every Promises Ltd. track seems to have layers, sections, chapters expressing a tonally and emotionally dense narrative, straddling the dividing line between fantasy and reality. Their self-titled debut EP released back in 2016 was short in its duration, but filled to max capacity in terms of texture and imagery, showing off Malvin’s impeccable production skills as well as Brand’s newly distorted vocals. While many seemed to pine after the bass heavy “American Eyes,” we found ourselves more entranced with the “Days of Lavender” and its extravagant, enamored sound, the way it warped and blared, the specific words and images undoubtedly hand picked with precision and care. It was the closest to being in a supersonic wonderland – one aesthetically futuristic but emotionally modern – I had ever experienced, and it still remains one of the most unique, stunning songs I have ever heard. Now, the duo have shared “Dreams,” another multi-faceted ballad that entertains new techniques but still hearkens back to their past selves. It’s dense and heavy, yet fluid in Brand’s vocals, a stream of consciousness in terms of its lyrics. But close to its ending, it completely transforms into something large and ethereal, with synth reminiscent of diamonds shattering into a million tiny pieces and falling slowly. No word yet if this will lead to a debut album, but come on, a full length of the imagined worlds of these two is something the world definitely needs right now.

 

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photo by Michael Busse

Jungle – “Happy Man”

London electro-funk group Jungle established their meticulous, full sound back in 2014 with their self-titled debut album, featuring stunners “Busy Earnin'” and “Time.” Driven by their desire to craft picture out of sound, inspired by innovators including Gorillaz, they focused highly on texture and color, relying on their skills in drawn-out collaborative work learned over the past decade rather than rest on the luxury of sudden surges of inspiration. Today, the band – initially fronted by long-time friends and musical partners Josh Lloyd Watson and Tom McFarland (known back then only as “J” and “T”) but now featuring additional touring members – is finally back with not one, but two new singles from their upcoming sophomore album, both aesthetically either sides of the same soulful coin. The bouncy, disco-funk “Happy Man” accompanies the sultry, swelled up “House in L.A.,” the former laying down a foundation of percussion and bass thick and heavy enough in order to hold up their slick, unwavering falsetto vocals, singing of frustrations with materialism and disillusionment. A clear fan of intense specification in their narratives, the upcoming album has been described by the band as “a post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs,” and when honing in on the heavily distorted, eerie synth nestled deep within the chorus of “Happy Man” as if it were coming through ravaged, war torn intercoms, it’s not something incredibly impossible to imagine – in fact, it adds to the danger and excitement of their ever-evolving sound.

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photo by Charlie Di Placido

Isaac Delusion – “Bittersweet Fruit”

French electronic quintet Isaac Delusion recently released their debut full-length Rust & Gold, a stunning collection of thoughtful narratives set to luxurious, beautifully produced synth. Though the album does contain bouts of jagged edge and tenacious bite like the moody “Distance” and the gritty ballad “The Sinner,” it was ultimately the little moments of vulnerability hiding within the album that stayed with us, the ones that showed off the quieter side of the group. Everything about “Bittersweet Fruit” – from the coarse falsetto of the vocals juuuust out of reach to the shimmering harp that pierces through like shards of glass – evokes goosebumps on the skin, the nostalgia conveyed through the wistful narrative somehow amber tinged in color. In it’s brief duration it manages to perfectly express innocence as well as eventual ruin due to love and the lack thereof, and it’s difficult not to imagine a single tear down his cheek as we hear him lament “Cause it don’t make any sense/ acting like friends after we danced.”

Rust & Gold is out now.

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photo by Hellena Burchard

Cosmo’s Midnight – “Polarised”

After teasing us with addictive, colorful tracks over the years, we’re beyond ecstatic to hear that Cosmo’s Midnight is finally releasing their debut album this summer, titled What Comes Next. Though they have expressed their unique sound partly through their stunning collaborations – and the upcoming album contains several – “Polarised,” the newest tease from the album, has Patrick Liney showing off his voice for the first time, a hazy, lucid croon that falls right in line with the fluid nature of the instrumentals. This stream-of-consciousness feeling the track brings is directly related to its origin as well:

”Polarised is the first time I’ve ever sung on a track. We were just riffing on keys and bass and I had a melody running through my head – instead of running it through a synth or something I plugged in my shitty mic and sang the first thing that came to mind. Everything just clicked from there and we went back and finessed it till it was done. I think this song really does capture the feeling of when we wrote it.”

The chunky, chime-like effects and bouncy bass, slightly reminiscent of Anything In Return era Toro y Moi, swirl together as the track plays on, pulsating and reverberating within itself.

What Comes Next will be released on June 15th.

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Makeness – “Who Am I To Follow Love”

Under the name Makeness, Scottish producer Scott Molleson creates the kind of electronic music that pays homage to classic house and techno, but also sounds incredibly experimental and modern in what he pours into the mix. The result is anything but minimal, especially clear in the handful of tracks released in anticipation for Loud Patterns, his upcoming debut album. Taking equal parts texture and color, tracks like “Stepping Out of Sync” seem to spin and spiral around the room when played aloud, with bright vocal effects and synth detailing every melody, while “Day Old Death,” true to it’s name, shows off a darker, heavier side. But just because he enjoys experimenting with avant-garde compostion that doesn’t mean Molleson can’t be more suave; “Who Am I To Follow Love” is sultry and sensual despite the wobbly, supersonic synth, perhaps partly due the smooth, echoed vocals from Babeheaven’s Nancy Andersen. It’s clear Makeness will express more of his versatile skill set in the rest of Loud Patterns, but ultimately it will be those finer details that he sneaks into every nook and cranny that will truly set it apart.

Loud Patterns will be released on April 6th via Secretly Canadian.

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photo by Dexter Lander

Monsune – “Nothing In Return”

Monsune is the indie electronic project of Toronto-based artist Scott Zhang. As a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and self-proclaimed “bedroom boy,” he combines meticulously chosen samples with his own compositions, and the result is clean, crisp, and powerful all at once. His debut single “Nothing In Return” – featuring quirky samples from Dorothy Ashby, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Skull Snaps, and Aiko – begins with bouts of bright, shimmering samples, laying a foundation for Zhang’s rich vocals to completely transform the track. Despite the nature lyrical narrative – described as “being at the beck and call of a potential lover” – it still sounds exuberant and hopeful, again, either from the soulful strength of the vocals, or the horn-lead menagerie of orchestral instrumentals. Yet, there’s also a layer of vulnerability lurking underneath, clear towards the closing when he admits “I guess your silence/ keeps me warm,” although its clear that he doesn’t really want to believe it.  Regardless, its a stunning amalgamation of strength as well as vulnerability, and the ways in which the potency rise and fall for each throughout the track is a testament to Monsume’s prowess as a producer.

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photo courtesy of artist/ sodwee

Art of Shades – “Undone” (ft. Sylo Nozra)

Art of Shades is a Franco-Italian producer based in Paris, specializing in smooth, sultry electronic beats with just the right amount of intrigue and mystery. Over the past five years, he has been steadily rounding out his sound with tracks released on his soundcloud and spotify, ranging from the fast and glitchy “White Skies” to even taking the time to put his own spin on Whilk and Misky’s “Clap Your Hands,” transforming it into a softer, more delicate track with the addition of vocals from Soukana. Now, he has returned with the stunning new track from his upcoming EP, the textured, danger laced “Undone.” Featuring the deep, passionate vocals of Sylo Nozra, the new track bolsters a somber, emotional narrative, and as the name suggests, starts out tightly wound, loosening steadily with every carefully orchestrated beat. There’s elements of danger for sure, but with equal bouts of vulnerability, heard more clearly when the instrumentals drop out to focus on the nature of the vocals.

Art of Shades:

Throughout the process, Sylo and I became great friends, and are now both a part of the same Canadian squad – OTrip. I sent the beat to Sylo from Paris and, after hearing what he did on the vocals, wanted to finish the track over in Toronto. Since the beginning of the Art of Shades project, I’ve always been seeking features from all around the world and finally – last winter, that brought me to Toronto and then Los Angeles during the summer. I met some really incredible people during those trips that helped to fulfil my ideas. The relationship we now have is genuine, to say the least. This song serves as a fresh start for my musical direction, and the perfect way to cap off the EP. It’s a symbol of my new friendships, and all of my North American collaborations to come.

Keep an eye and ear out for Art of Shades’s upcoming EP, set for release in the spring through his own record label, Sound of Shades.

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photo courtesy of artist

Gus Dapperton – “Prune, You Talk Funny”

NY based artist Gus Dapperton has easily been one of our absolute favorite musical discoveries of the year, due to both his exuberant, yet surreal take on electronic pop as well as his seemingly poised and unperturbed personality that obviously bleeds into his work. His Yellow and Such EP, released this past summer, is also one of our favorite releases of the year, blending both color and texture seamlessly using synth, classic instrumentals, and various effects to achieve a cinematic, almost otherworldly sound. His latest release “Prune, You Talk Funny,” is definitely more guitar heavy, with a dreamy distortion that pairs incredibly well with his signature raspy croon. His lyrics, as usual, are on the poetic side, telling “Prune” that he likes “the way words come out” their mouth, how it takes him “many miles to make them out,” later in the chorus “treading on flower beds” among glittering synth and backing vocals of oohs and ahhs. The accompanying video is as whimsical and charming as the music itself, showing an underwear-clad Dapperton running from a girl’s father, guitar in hand, dancing at pools, parks, and school hallways dressed in 80’s friendly turtlenecks, sweaters, and blazers, and hanging out with his “bowl cut army,” all while possessing an inexplicable confidence that seems to burst through the screen.

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Baths – “Human Bog”

Baths is the experimental electronic project of Los Angeles based singer and multi-instrumentalist Will Wiesenfeld. Whether his work was tinged with childlike whimsy and nostalgia, as in debut album Cerulean, or steeped in darkness, illness, and strife as in sophomore album Obsidian, his focus and intent to remain true to his own identity, including his internal frustrations and outward struggles, never faltered, leading to some incredibly unique, incredibly textured, and incredibly beautiful tracks, all taken from a different place of his subconscious.

However, Wiesenfeld’s most recent album, Romaplasm, may be his most gorgeous, emotional, and honest album yet, honest in the way he expounds on his “at-home obsessions” with an added emphasis on the fantastical mediums in which he draws the most emotion – things like anime, books, and comics, but portrayed an brilliantly indirect manner where only the emotion derived is placed on display. Described on the album’s bandcamp profile as a “post-modern take on Romanticism,” each track from the album is a deeper step inside a new glitchy, colorful, and otherworldly environment, attempting to take both the immense pain and beauty of life and place them on nearly equal pedestals, where one does not exist without the other. “Human Bog,” one of the more dense, emotional tracks, is the perfect amalgamation of these two ideas, and among the most stunning tracks Baths has ever released dealing with personal identity, clear when paying close attention to its poetic lyrical narrative. Wiesenfeld admits in an increasingly fraying, porous voice, between puddles of murky, treacherous synth, that he’s “queer in a way that works” for whoever he’s with, and “queer in a way that’s failed [him], and ultimately laments on “the lengths [he ] goes to get held onto,” the instrumentals afterwards introducing soft orchestral flourishes that again allows the track to be both sad and beautiful, self-indulgent but honest. It’s no secret that being honest with yourself, no matter how difficult or frustrating that may be, makes for more genuine art, and with Romaplasm, Baths has realized that tenfold.

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photo by Mario Luna