by: Nosaj Thing

Los Angeles beatmaker Nosaj Thing (Jason Chung) significantly shifted things into focus on his fourth full-length, Parallels. After his gear was stolen in Houston while he was on tour, he was forced to rebuild, and inevitably his subsequent work has been affected by his loss and recovery. While his music remains abstract and mysterious, it seems a bit more self-aware and concerned with reality. Unlike his previous albums, particularly 2015's fragmentary Fated, there are no tracks under two minutes on this one. Voices are more prominent in his work than ever before, and while he hasn't quite made a pop album yet, songs such as the nearly radio-ready downtempo R&B ballad "Way We Were" (featuring Zuri Marley) and the frosty trip-hop cut "How We Do" (with Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino) express more straightforward sentiments than one might expect from Chung's hazy, dreamlike productions. There are some more detached tracks, such as opener "Nowhere" and "Form," both of which contain distant pianos and indistinct chatter, but the songs with rhythms seem more direct than the amorphous beatscapes Chung was previously known for. He explored left-field house on his excellent, under-the-radar 2016 EP No Reality, and he continues using uptempo 4/4 beats on tracks like the urgently pulsing "All Points Back to U" (featuring karmically balanced lyrics by Steve Spacek) and the haunting "U G," filled with chopped voices and rising synth loops. "Get Like" detours into Zomby-like minimalist trap, and "IGYC" features a shredded, disintegrating voice saying "I guess you can" looped over calm, flickering drones. At the end is "Sister," a more playful track with a pretty melody, skittery beats, and a backwards vocal loop. Parallels is the sound of an artist regaining perspective after a devastating setback, and while he still makes music to drift away to, it's more focused than ever. ~ Paul Simpson

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