words by DAVID HOGG
“Try” f. Toro y Moi
Jason Chung, the L.A.-based producer behind Nosaj Thing, has an exceptional ear for space. The masterful level of production and the vast collection of influences on his 2009 album Drift put him in the company of other famed instrumental producer/musicians such as Flying Lotus and Clams Casino. As was the case on Drift, Chung’s work as Nosaj Thing has been all about measuring and manipulating an audible distance between lucidity and obscurity. Chung created a hybrid of genres that played on the attention span of his listeners, creating complex yet fluid transitions between an ambient background and distorted foray.
It doesn’t take long to notice that Home, Chung’s follow up to Drift, does not boast the same variety of textures and tones. While Drift incorporated elements of dubstep and glitch hop over ambient backgrounds, Home is very much about submerging into the ambient. The beats and synths on these songs are familiar, but everything has been toned down to emphasize the immense depth of production. Despite a slight dub-bass on “Snap” and hints of drum & bass on “Light 3,” Home is focused on atmosphere rather than specific details; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
After listening to the album on headphones (the only feasible way to experience Home), it’s impossible to miss Chung’s talent for creating sublime depths within his songs. The amount of reverb this produces is sometimes as loud as the beats and synth riffs in songs such as “Tell” or the title track. Some of the songs are defined by this, such as the resonating bass reverb in “Distance,” or how the rhythmic bumps and clicks in “Glue” hover above a seemingly bottomless depth of synths. Sonically, these are some beautiful moments.
Unfortunately, that’s what many of these songs are: just moments. Too brief to be transcendent, yet too esoteric to be engaging, most songs on Home seem to end just before they really begin to expand. For what is essentially an ambient album, it seems strange that the average song length is between three and four minutes. Just as the patterns and rhythms of one song are about to set in, the beat fades, and the synths waver over a single note, and the next song begins. Then the process begins again. It doesn’t diminish the album entirely, but it does leave one wondering why, on such a reflective album, Chung doesn’t take advantage of this room for expansion.
Home excels when movement is added into the mix. Maybe it’s due to having the most distinct vocal presence, but “Eclipse/Blue” stands out as the most accessible, and by far the best, song from the album. With a soft pulse, a buildup of synths, and Kazu Makino’s (Blonde Redhead) ethereal vocal delivery, the song is electronic dream pop at its finest. Its strength is in its momentum, which the rest of Home seems to lack.
It was only a few days ago that it was revealed that scientists had obtained the first video of a giant squid in its natural habitat, more than 3,000 feet beneath the surface. The images we’ve seen show a lone squid, lurking in an otherwise black abyss. I remember thinking what a strange existence that must be, to be floating endlessly through complete darkness. In some ways, Chung’s songwriting on Home has a similar feeling; in exploring unfathomable depths of sound, the songs simply float along, temporarily dipping in brief moments of glitchy beats or atmospheric synths. It’s bizarre, and at times beautiful, but overall it leaves a longing for some direction, some movement in this exploration of the abyss. [B-]
Find it at:
Stream Home in its entirety, here.