By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
I’m in love with the underground electronic scene right now.
Considering the grip that electronic and house music has had on the mainstream for the past few years, it’s not hard to imagine that beneath the names of titans like Calvin Harris and Zedd, there’s a massive circulation of underground artists that put incredibly unique spins on the typical electronic sound…
Equanimous is one of those artists. One of the reasons this review took so long to compose was the amount of diversity he brings in his compositions: he is simultaneously an experimentalist that dabbles in beat breaks and beatboxing and a pop-sensible composer that can craft some memorable sequences. Merging Elements is the perfect description for what Equanimous does: he merges the truly odd-nature of the genre with catchy melodies and blissful soundscapes.
Like the beginning of a dream, Merging Elements introduces a rainbow-colored splash of electronica with “Arise.” Like the rest of the album, the song’s melodies hum with a soft, dreamlike peace. The track’s mix of reverberating keys, smooth strings and marching bongos make it a wonderful combination of enjoyable vibes and hidden complexity, the kind of music you can dissect and meditate to all at once. While it may be a bit quiet for an opening, it’s still a beautiful moment, contrasted wonderfully by the beatboxing and heavy bass of the standout “Bumpin Bass Beatbox.” This song brings a surreal element to the album, with layers upon layers of vocals and tongue clucks darting in and out of the mix in an almost tribal fashion while a hard-hitting beat thumps along. This is the kind of element that Equanimous seeks to merge with the easygoing side of electronic music: the element of surprise, of alienness that comes from synthetic sounds.
While some of the textures and sounds that come from Merging Elements may be off-kilter, I think that anyone can still feel the groove that Equanimous brings to the table. Some of these songs sound ready to blast in a dance floor lightyears away, especially on the club-rhythms and shifting samples of “Tahini Kiatsu”. While the surface of the track sounds ready for the atmosphere at happy hour, the surreal and dreamlike nature of the keys and vocals transcend the song’s vibe to a foreign planet. The overall spaciness of it reminds me of an album like ATLiens: the music is grounded and flying past the stratosphere all at once…and a song like “Air Bender” is the theme music to the rocket taking off. With the glistening hip-hop rhythms, chattering samples, and dramatic keys, the song feels ready to explode at any second (much like the engine of a spaceship), injecting a lively pulse into the relatively surreal and lowkey tracklist.
As the album continues, the experimentation continues to ebb and flow, but a few of the tracks seem redundant in terms of theming and production style. “Saviour,” while acting as a very pretty ambient-piece, seems to halt the pace of the album immediately after “Air Bender.” While great on its own, the lack of a gripping groove or sense of purpose leaves the track feeling worn-out by its first few minutes. “Echoes” continues the use of odd sampling and beatboxing, but the heaviness of the bass clashes with some unflattering vocal lines that remind me of someone chewing/drinking from a straw too loud. I like the concept of the song (centering around the echoes of the vocals that were sampled), but I feel like the concept overshadowed the ideal sonic execution. What’s noteworthy, however, is that I don’t find these tracks awful; they have great ideas and moments, simply never coming completely together.
Despite a bit of a lull in the middle of the tracklist, Merging Elements finishes incredibly strong with some of the album’s more pop-centric cuts. “Head Up High” is beautiful, a pop-ballad that centers around Ruby Chase’s cherubic vocals; as the chorus’s synths break down alongside her passionate performance, I can’t help but smile. It’s an uplifting tune lyrically, focusing on pushing through trials and tribulations, but it still keeps the intensity with Equanimous’s awesome compositional work. “Dreamality” mixes hand-percussion and bongos in a remarkable way, sounding simultaneously ancient and futuristic alongside the harmonies laced in the instrumentation. While this is one of the album’s shortest tracks, it leaves a great impact; as I sink into the psychedelic production, I feel like I’m transported to the wondrous world of Pandora a la James Cameron’s Avatar.
If the strongest elements of Merging Elements can be summed up in one song, they would be found in the closer “Merging Elements.” With a dreamlike mix of Asian melodies, catchy vocalizations, neat woodwind loops, and an energizing beat switch at the end, the song captures the album’s neat mix of dreaminess, pop-sensibility, and experimentation in one elongated package. This song, much like the rest of the record, is great overall, scratching the itch that any casual or hardcore electronic fan may be feeling in 2020. Give it a listen!
Special thanks to Equanimous, Gravitas Recordings, and all parties involved for giving us the chance to review this great album! Give Merging Elements a listen below!
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