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Khotin

Release Spirit

    Canadian producer Dylan Khotin-Foote has kept his Khotin alias going for the better part of a decade; the impressionistic electronic project shifts with the movements in his life. Sometimes it leads, like when the club-friendly grooves of 2014’s Hello World immersed him in the heart of Vancouver’s underground dance scene, and sometimes it follows, like 2018’s Beautiful You, a downtempo salve for DJ fatigue. His melodic sensibility and playful ear for atmosphere remain the rippling core of the project’s fingerprint; whether beat-driven or ambient, a foggy smear or a dusted and pristine print, a Khotin track has a distinct and instantly recognizable swirl. During and after the 2020 release of Finds You Well, his second LP on Ghostly International, Khotin-Foote settled back into a slower vibe in his hometown of Edmonton. Even before the pandemic, his pivots to softer production, and away from DJing, left him with fewer opportunities in Vancouver and club bookings overall, and as a self-identifying introvert, he was fine with that. But the change of pace did open space for Khotin-Foote to grapple with concepts of adulthood and career. At his lowest, he almost walked off this musical path altogether; instead, he doubled down on the craft — the tone, pacing, and dynamism of new material — arriving at a definitive full-length. With Release Spirit, Khotin releases himself from the pressure of expectation, fusing and refining everything we know about his music. The warmth and familiarity of Khotin’s dreamy, dulcet style meet new ideas and frameworks, a natural progression, a modest revelation; Khotin confirms it is okay to move slowly and he’s never sounded better doing it.

    The album title borrows from the “release spirit” mechanic in the video game World of Warcraft. When players die, they are prompted to release their spirit and return as ghosts to find their corpses and come back to life. Khotin sees it as a worthy metaphor for the impending change his return home presented and the resulting process of purging artistic expectations to find his creative self again. On this go-around, he is freer, more playful, and more intentional within his palette of warped synth, breakbeats, and piano sounds — including the classic Casio SK-1 presets he’s used since the start — mingling with wistful samples, field recordings, and other abstract snippets. For the first time, he enlisted Nik Kozub to do the mix and assist with sequencing. Khotin-Foote has long worked with the Edmonton-based musician and engineer in the mastering phase, as well as their days co-running the label Normals Welcome, and this time was able to involve his ears earlier given their newfound proximity. “I think it’s my best sounding record to date.”

    We begin on “HV Road” or Happy Valley Road, where Khotin-Foote spent time during a family vacation in British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake. His plans to record crickets at night are quickly foiled by his younger siblings; the cute exchange orients the listener to a core memory of sorts, setting the tone of universally understood warmth and wonder that has defined some of Khotin’s most transportive tracks. Hazy percussion takes hold, and we are swept further into the wisp of “Lovely,” a grooving, melodic standout built on the interplay between the beat and human voice-like hums. Khotin knows this zone well; equally suited for a reverie or a club warm-up.

    The bubbling atmosphere and absurdity of “3 pz” offer a cosmic/comic interlude and also speak to reflections on his family’s move to Canada two generations ago, and the audio tutorials they used to learn English. “I can only imagine my grandparents repeating some of the bizarre phrases.”

    “Fountain, Growth” finds Khotin in collaboration with Montreal’s Tess Roby (Dawn to Dawn) for the project’s first-ever vocal track. Roby’s soft cadence echoes atop spiraling air pockets of rhythmic production, lending a breezy, almost shoegaze pop feel. Throughout the single and the album, wind gusts between the compositional layers, akin to the roaming spirits of its namesake, curving around the birdsong of “Life Mask” and seamlessly reaching “Unlimited <3.” The latter bumps in slow motion; disembodied whirrs from his Casio collide with 808 drums and sub-bass for a vibe that teeters on trap and instrumental hip-hop.

    Release Spirit rests in a dream sequence. Oscillating synth lines dance around the heartbeat of “Techno Creep,” a hyperactive REM state before the digitized ambient sprawl of “My Same Size.” In the final pass, Khotin imagines transcontinental travel from the glow of his screen. He recorded “Sound Gathering Trip” to soundtrack a genre of YouTube videos he’s taken to that follows train routes through Europe and Japan. The scene is serene and moving; piano keys warble as static-filled sound design shimmers off the rails, from cityscapes to the countryside, an introspective ride through a world beyond his bedroom. It doubles as an apt parting image for Khotin’s project as a whole: dreaming big but happiest when riffing on the details, shaping environments from the inside out. Over the last decade, he has stretched from his core in Edmonton, leaving a trace in Vancouver and beyond; but when all signs point home, he loops back to see it all from a different vantage, revitalized, refined, and free. 

    TRACK LISTING

    TRACKLISTING

    01. HV Road
    02. Lovely
    03. Home World 303
    04. 3 Pz
    05. Computer Break (Late Mix)
    06. Fountain, Growth (ft. Tess Roby)
    07. Life Mask
    08. Unlimited <3
    09. Techno Creep
    10. My Same Size
    11. Sound Gathering Trip 

    Tycho

    Dive - 10th Anniversary Edition

      "Dive establishes its position as the most diverse musical statement of Hansen’s multi-medium career; the point where his skills as a performer finally catch up with his vaporized vision of a world that doesn’t belong to any particular time or place.” 

      TRACK LISTING

      01. A Walk
      02. Hours
      03. Daydream
      04. Dive
      05. Coastal Brake
      06. Ascension
      07. Melanine
      08. Adrift
      09. Epigram
      10. Elegy

      Launder

      Happening

        After nearly three years and sixty demos, Launder’s full-length debut is Happening. In 2019, Orange County-raised, Los Angeles-based musician John Cudlip signed to Ghostly International to build his recording project, developed out of casual sessions with friends Jackson Phillips (Day Wave), Soko, and Zachary Cole Smith (DIIV). Launder’s music had seen unexpected attention, with

        Stereogum placing it “somewhere at the intersection of ‘90s lo-fi and shoegaze,” and Gorilla vs. Bear noting Cudlip’s “serious knack for the kind of wistful, soaring choruses that immediately make you feel like you’ve known these songs forever.” With live shows paused in 2020, he immersed fully into writing and arranging an overflow of ideas. Cudlip also embraced sobriety, redirecting his once-destructive addictive tendencies into studio craft — all his thoughts consumed by melody and texture, all his resources lobbed into gear, every buzz, hiss, and hum of this record became his entire world. The resulting set sprawls across a double LP release; it’s a considered beast of a debut and he’s proud of it, living with it, finally. Through its thirteen songs, Happening is timeless, grappling with something bigger than just melody, the cathartic and the tender, indebted to indie rock greats while informed by modern and prudent self-reflection.

        “I feel like I’ve evolved into a much more self-reliant writer compared to the EP and 7-inch releases but I couldn’t have made this record without the band,” he says. “The songs came to life in the rehearsal space with them, it was like a light switch went on.” To record the album, Cudlip and collaborators — including Chase Meier (bass), Bryan DeLeon (drums), Nathan Hawelu (lead guitar) — joined co-producer, engineer, and mixer Sonny DiPerri (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, DIIV) at New Monkey Studio, the vintage analog/modern digital recording studio in Van Nuys, California once owned by Elliott Smith. Cudlip mapped out his dream setup; alternate-tuning a fleet of Fenders to facilitate his left-handed playing, experimenting with different amps (a late ‘70s Marshall JMP carried much of the sound), and getting the vocals just right on Smith’s old Neumann U48 microphone and Fairchild compressor. With each nuanced adjustment and improved take, they’d joke, “it’s happening.” The sort of phrase you say to keep the vibe light — but there was some gravity behind it — as the group was forced to wait to be safely in the same space again. It was apparent to them that something magnetic was shaping this record.

        Where debuts often feel full of rough-hewn potential, Launder has crafted a deeply honed collection that is happening right now. A process-oriented album, the work of a person maturing with their art, the sound of a songwriter pushing through their limits with thrilling and anthemic outcomes.

        TRACK LISTING

        01. Unwound
        02. Intake
        03. Blue Collar
        04. On A Wire
        05. Become
        06. Beggar
        07. Rust
        08. Withdraw
        09. Lockwood
        10. Harbour Mouth
        11. Chipper
        12. Parking Lot
        13. Lantern

        West coast composer, artist, and producer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has chartered a pioneering career with multiple critically-acclaimed albums since 2015. Following the release of The Kid in 2017, Smith focused her energy in several directions. She founded Touchtheplants, a multidisciplinary creative environment for projects including the first volumes in her instrumental Electronic Series and pocket-sized poetry books on the practice of listening within. She’s continued to explore the endless possibilities of electronic instruments as well as the shapes, movements, and expressions found in the physical body’s relationship to sound and color. It is this life-guiding interest that forms the foundational frequencies of her most recent full-length, The Mosaic of Transformation, a bright, sensorial glide through unbound wave phenomena and the radiant power discovered within oneself.

        “I guess in one sentence, this album is my expression of love and appreciation for electricity,” says Smith. While writing and recording, she embraced a daily practice of physical movement, passing electricity through her body and into motion, in ways reflecting her audio practice, which sends currents through modular synthesizers and into the air through speakers. Not a dancer by any traditional definition, she taught herself improvisatory movement realizing flexibility, strength, and unexpectedly, a “visual language” stemming from the human body and comprised of vibrational shapes. Understood as cymatics, as Smith says, “as a reference for how frequencies can be visualized,” much like a mosaic.

        Smith describes her first encounters with this mosaic; “the inspiration came to me in a sudden bubble of joy. It was accompanied by a multitude of shapes that were moving seamlessly from one into the other...My movement practice has been a constant transformation piece by piece. I made this album in the same way. Every day I would transform what I did yesterday...into something else. This album has gone through about 12 different versions of itself.” As it has arrived, in a completed state, The Mosaic of Transformation is a holistic manifestation of embodied motions. Smith’s signature textural curiosity that fans have grown to adore pivots naturally into a proprioceptive study of melody and timbre. Airy organ and voice interweave with burbling Buchla-spawned harmonic bubbles.

        “The Steady Heart” quivers to life, peppering blasts of wooden organ between winding vocal affirmations. As with a body, moving one portion requires a balance and counterbalance; here, subtle tonal twitchy signals fire in conjunction with coiling arias to create a mesmeric core. When the beat arrives at the midway mark, a swooping and jittery waltz, a sense of stasis in motion, a flow state, is sonically achieved. As soon as it syncs, it disappears back into the swirling ebbs of electric force. Other tracks stray into more ruminative physical realms. “Carrying Gravity” is built around string-like pads that expand and contract like a solar plexus, becoming taught and then loose.

        If the record could be summarized in a single movement, it is the 10-minute closing suite, a rapturous collage called “Expanding Electricity.” Symphonic phrases establish the piece before washes of glittering electric peals and synthesized vibraphone helix into focus. Soon, Smith’s voice grounds it all with an intuitive vocal hook, harmonized and augmented by concentric spirals of harp-and-horn-like sounds. Smith’s music doesn’t capture a specific emotion as much as it captures the joys of possessing a body, and the ability to, with devotion and a steady open heart, maneuver that vessel in space by way of electricity to euphoric degrees. 


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: It's sometimes hard to listen to electronic music that has no real basis in rhythm or melody, and while the Buchla modular synth has produced some pretty 'out-there' albums, KAS is not one of those artists. She's created some mind-blowingly beautiful meditative ambient albums, but it's not one of those either. This is a wildly creative, beautifully accomplished coherent stream of gorgeousness, and shows just how diverse a modular synth album can be.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Unbraiding Boundless Energy Within Boundaries
        2. Remembering
        3. Understanding Body Messages
        4. The Steady Heart
        5. Carrying Gravity
        6. The Spine Is Quiet In The Center
        7. Overflowing
        8. Deepening The Flow Of
        9. Expanding Electricity

        Matthew Dear is a shapeshifter, oscillating seamlessly between DJ, dance-music producer, and experimental pop auteur. He is a founding artist on both Ghostly International and its dancefloor offshoot, Spectral Sound. He writes, produces, and mixes all of his work. He straddles multiple musical worlds and belongs to none, now nearly 20 years into his kaleidoscopic career, with five albums and two dozen EPs plus millions of miles in the rearview of his biography.

        Bunny is the name of Matthew Dear’s fifth album. His first since 2012, it bounces into plain sight preceded by two slyly different singles in 2017: the moody, urgent "Modafinil Blues” and the buoyant, blithe, Tegan and Sara-featuring “Bad Ones.” Bunny follows both modes, among others, parading down a rabbit hole of unhinged phrasings, dreams, and interludes. It saunters in the shadows; it stands brightly in the moonlight. Bunny is a dual vision of avant-pop; an artistic reckoning from a 21st-century polymath; persona splintered, paradox paraphrased, a riddle rendered.


        TRACK LISTING

        01. Bunny’s Dream
        02. Calling
        03. Can You Rush Them
        04. Echo
        05. Modafinil Blues
        06. What You Don’t Know
        07. Horses (feat. Tegan And Sara)
        08. Moving Man
        09. Bunny’s Interlude
        10. Duke Of Dens
        11. Electricity
        12. Kiss Me Forever
        13. Bad Ones (feat. Tegan And Sara)
        14. Before I Go

        Since Scott Hansen's Tycho project's inception in 2004 with the release of 'Sunrise Projector' (later renamed 'Past Is Prologue' for it's reissues in 2006 and 2010), they have undertaken a wide range of melodic electronic miscellany. Centred around the trio of albums, 'Dive' 'Awake' and onto his latest offering, 'Epoch'. 

        Though they all mine the seam of anthemic electronic music, they have leant in slightly differing directions with regards their emotional pacing and melodic makeup. 'Dive' was very much a morning album, slowly growing into a breathing and optomistic mass through woozy synths and reticent percussion, forming themes through repetition and infinitesimal variations. 'Awake' was much more as the title suggests, a pinnacle of alertness, an effervescent and resplendent rising from the woozy haze of the first. 

        And onto Epoch. A culmination and combination of the previous two iterations, stylistically, and theoretically. 

        Opener 'Division' begins with a hazy crushed electric piano, and growing fade before cutting brutally into galloping toms, and that trademark Tycho bass sound. Not two minutes in and it becomes instantly recognisable, with sliding square wave synths swooning backwards and forwards along with the kinetic rhytmic backdrop. 'Horizon' has throbbing cosmic chord stabs and sidechained crisp saturated drum kit. 

        Pieces like 'Reciever' really move the posts of what has come before, embracing the dusky atmospheres of 'Dive' but with much more of a late-night feel, jazzy rhodes trills and throbbing ambience really lending their mystique before being given a firm but subtle bolstering by some uncharacteristically distant drums and shakers dragging the pace along. 

        Move on further and 'Division' is a complex and fascinating melting pot of instrumental rock, driving electronica and ambience, being based much more heavily upon guitars and rhythm before bringing in the synths in a stop-start cut-up. A brilliantly varied but completely natural progression, made all the more hard-hitting by the lack of crossovers, opting instead for a complete about-turn on more than one occasion. 

        'Epoch' is less about ambience setting the scene than on previous offerings, and much more based on Hansen's mastery of rhythmic foundations and celever melodic arrangement. Moreso than anything else Tycho have done, this is a bracing and rewarding journey, never jarring, but constantly evolving. A masterful culmination of concept and execution, and most of all a great listen. 

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Having been a fan of Tycho's work for some time now, I was wondering how this would come out, and I couldn't be any happier. A brilliant fusion of the unbelievable skill of the previous two albums, and a brilliantly executed continuation and expanding of the themes found on both. Darker, moodier and more uplifting and euphoric at the flick of a switch. Brilliant.

        TRACK LISTING

        01. Glider
        02. Horizon
        03. Slack 
        04. Reciever
        05. Epoch
        06. Division 
        07. Source
        08. Local
        09. Rings
        10. Continuum
        11. Afield 


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