Review/Listen: Nosaj Thing – Home

Nosaj-Thing-HomeIt’s hard to go subtle when you’re known for grabbing people’s attention.

Last year, Flying Lotus made a nearly identical shift with the soundscape-laden, electronic-gone-ambient Until the Quiet Comes: a critically adored record which ended up underwhelming me due to the lack of sonic payoff from respective genres (i.e. jazz, IDM, etc) Lotus borrows from. We’re in a similar place now with L.A.-based electronic producer Jason Chung, better known as Nosaj Thing, on the follow-up to his energetic 2009 debut record Drift with Home: a toned-down and intimate experience on a microscopic scale.

Unlike many stripped-down electronic projects I hold qualms with, Home comes with as many nuances as it does catharsis. It doesn’t hold a light to the abstract and colorful fluxes of Drift. Instead, Chung approaches beats, samples and rhythms with the intention of an introverted and cerebral outing into glitch-hop. The low-end on Home pushes less hard, the IDM textures are here to soothe, not invigorate and the mood is not unlike a dim neon blue glow from a computer screen in a dark room. Every moment, we meditate and muse alongside Chung through his set of wonky effects, crackling bass notes and understated grooves.

Home‘s high point strikes early on with the lead single “Eclipse/Blue”, a strikingly quiet, yet busy electronic mini-epic featuring haunting vocals by Blonde Redhead‘s Kazu Makino. Featured with an utterly stunning music video of a dancer and her shadow against an interactive light-show backdrop (think Squarepusher gone ambient), Chung’s crescendos and lush transitions encompass Makino as she longs for memories of a past love (“I used to know how to please you / and all the love was streaming through you”). It’s hard not to grow slowly wrapped in with Chung’s minimalist control over mood and tension, while growing obsessed with Makino’s soul-stealing vocal performance.

As you continue to float between each song, faded footprints of Chung’s contemporaries grow visible: influences ranging from the likes of Tychowith momentary acoustic guitars occasionally hinting at a glowing sunny warmth, and Clams Casinoaccentuating plenty of tracks with glossy, waning synths all too familiar for IDM and house music fans. Nosaj Thing lands a moment purely of his own on the track “Snap”, a serious glitch-hop entry explicitly reminiscent of the timid frenzy found on Drift, with a highly sophisticated opening beat and irresistibly dance-worthy groove to follow. Chung follows suit on the thickly atmospheric closing tracks “Phase III” and “Light #3″; both come built on syncopated rhythms off odd drum snare samples, piano arpeggios and the hiccuping sounds of inhales. The duo of tracks serve crucially to Chung’s top strengths as a producer, given his uncanny ability to capture surrealist and cinematic immersion; it’s a sleek approach to complete a polished experience.

Home doesn’t make the mistake in sacrificing quantity for quality, nor the other way around. Subtler works in an electronic producer’s career usually indicate symptoms like lazier musicianship, unrealized sonic ideas, floozy production approaches or even the occasional experimental concept record gone horribly wrong. Like every EP and album Chung has released to date, Nosaj Thing nurtures the project with a near-masterful grip on direction and a fine-tuned, layered technical ability beaming with finesse. The sky’s the limit for Chung now: we’ve seen him produce intro- and extrovertedly now; where he wants to go next, there’s no telling. All we can do is dim the lights and let him fill the room with the beauty of another world.

You can stream the entire release over at Bleep.

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