A Setting Sun: Views From a Real World EP

Entsounds: Growth EP

JDSY: Understander EP

Moodgadget begins the new year on a strong note with three EPs by A Setting Sun (Jay Bodley), Entsounds (Reid Dunn aka Wisp), and JDSY (Joey Sims).

The evocative ambient pieces on A Setting Sun's Views from the Real World are rich in melody and texture. Following up on his contributions to the Moodgadget comps The Rorschach Suite and Expanse At Low Levels, Bodley supplements four originals with robust remixes by JDSY and Viul. The style is languid, low-level ambient sprinkled with understated rhythm patterns (a house pulse in “Walking Towards A Setting Sun”) and wistful chord progressions and melodies. Though “33” moves more animatedly than the others, A Setting Sun's material generally unfolds slowly and proves entrancing as a result. Descending chords slowly melt in “Sun Worship,” for example, capturing the melancholy one feels at late afternoon. The remixes offer contrast but, while decent enough, lack the enticing restraint of Bodley's originals. Viul's “Gauze in Your Gums/Shelburne Hill Mix” of “Walking Towards A Setting Sun” is more aggressive and hazier than the original (it's hard not to think of Fennesz when tonal streams are shredded and refracted into blurry washes) while JDSY injects “33” with an appealing yet restrained dance-funk feel.

Entsounds' Growth EP was inspired by the idea of creating a short score for stages in a plant's growth but no awareness of its programmatic design is needed to appreciate and enjoy its microsound style. Natural sounds of water and wind are magnified, suggestive of how sounds might be experienced at the insect level. Loops hazily repeat throughout, intensifying the material's lulling effect. Soft wind tones drift amidst simmering noises and distorted voices in “Seed,” scrabbly noises ripple animatedly over shimmering tones in “Growth I,” and lapping loops and stormy atmospheres dominate “Dormancy” and “Growth II.” The music briefly blooms in “Flower” and then turns understandably funereal in the closing “Death.”

JDSY's nine-song collection of vocal-based synth-pop, Understander, is a different animal altogether. Though artists such as Bjork, Safety Scissors, Dan Deacon, Aphex Twin, Her Space Holiday, Dntel, and Jamie Lidell are cited in the accompanying info as similar to JSDY, the name that Understander most evokes isn't mentioned: Matthew Dear. On a track like “Understander,” Sims' sleepy baritone sounds uncannily like Dear's, and the hook-oriented pop stylings of the two aren't dissimilar either; “Understander,” for instance, could unknowingly slip comfortably onto Asa Breed without anyone noticing. Having said that, the comparison doesn't unreservedly flatter JSDY as Dear's talent for melody is hard to match. Still, Sims' material impresses in other respects: it's solidly crafted and crisply arranged, for starters, and his high-energy mix of jittery beats and bleepy synth melodies holds one's attention throughout the songs' rapid-fire twists and turns. Sims also changes things up by mixing instrumentals and vocal cuts, and detonating his tracks with an occasional jungle interjection; “Jeepers Creepers” even introduces a jazzy feel to the EP while child-like melodies dance sweetly through the set-closer “So Lost In Nothing.”

February 2008