Photo courtesy of the artist
numün — voyage au soleil (Self-released)
I recall watching Radiohead perform a few years back, marveling at the densely layered atmospheres created right before my eyes. Dating back to the first electric guitar, electronic instruments were built to stand apart from their acoustic counterparts. It takes skill and refinement to blend these elements together, and the synthesis can be beautiful. But this is the age-old problem with electronic music, it’s often so alien that it feels almost willed into place. It’s hard to imagine it being played by actual human beings. numün takes a step back from the polish, leaving the cracks visible. The trio (Gamelan Dharma Swara’s Chris Romero and Joel Mellin, with Bob Holmes from the ambient-country band SUSS) accomplish this simply. There’s not a robotic beat, glitch or bloop to be found; instead, the synths are joined by Eastern tunings, banjos, tambourines, and congas. In place of distance and remove, the music is present; you can almost hear being played around a campfire. In a year of music typified by anxious navel-gazing, this tranquil and absorbing set keeps calling me back.
– Jeff McCord