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.
01. HV Road
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