Stephen Hummel: Meld
Stephen Hummel

Meld is purposefully released under Stephen Hummel's birth name instead of his well-known subtractiveLAD guise, as it's a different kind of project, even if there are commonalities between them. In place of the strict instrumental focus of the subtractiveLAD material, Meld is more song-based in its structures and its incorporation of vocals. A focus on analogue sounds and lush ambiance remains but with a shift in focus to a comparatively more accessible song-styled approach. Think of it as a widescreen meeting ground between vocal-based synth-pop, shoegaze, and IDM-electronica.

Lyrically, Hummel ain't Cole Porter (“Phoenix” opens with, for example, “Hey you / Just roll with it / Let the past fall behind you / Don't let the haters bring you down”), but they get the job done; one might be better to look upon the lyrics as more means (words for Hummel to sing, that is) than ends. “Forever” finds him reciting single words (“Forever / Tomorrow / Yesterday / Always / Never / Now”) using a robotic voice in a way that's a tad reminiscent of Kraftwerk's “Computer World (“Business / Numbers / Money / People”). His vocals are certainly appealing enough, often delivered in a smooth baritone that has perhaps been enhanced in the production process.

Not all of the ten songs include vocals, however. “Glorious,” for instance, is primarily an ambient meditation that features his voice as a wordless swirl, and the soothing “Sunshine” almost eschews singing altogether (the presence of a soft murmur notwithstanding) in order to focus exclusively on an analogue-heavy arrangement. Instrumentally, the forty-four-minute collection is heavily synthesizer- and programming-based, and includes both laid-back (the downtempo dreampop of “Away”) and aggressive pieces (the mini-anthem “Beautiful” and drum'n'bass-inflected “Somehow”). In truth, Hummel's level of skill and craft is so high that he could probably take on any genre and turn out a good result, and Meld is no exception in that regard. Fans of his subtractiveLAD project needn't worry, either, as he hasn't retired it; in fact, as of this writing, he's deep into the writing stage for the next album.

June 2012