• Tue, May 17, 2022
Reviews

Owlist Takes The Lo-Fi High Road On Warm New Album

7.0

album Reviews Dec 09, 04:31pm

Get your day in order, because ‘Amoeba’ is focus music with depth

Owlist is a producer and beatmaker based in Jaipur, and ‘Amoeba’ is his fourth full-length album. It has ten tracks of mellow, warm and comforting lo-fi hip-hop. There is a lot that’s made of the genre and how it’s little more than vapid, relatively quiet beats that live in ’24-hour study and chill mix’ videos on Youtube (and that is absolutely one of the genre’s best applications), but that is and has always been a bit of an approximation. What Owlist does on this album and with this sound as a whole is infuse some personality into it. And it works all the better as a result.

There are some relatively interesting production choices Owlist takes on this. Lo-fi beats of this sort have something of a template to them; quiet synths, minimal drum and percussion sounds, and generally fare of the non-intrusive variety. But this album isn’t that. There’s flat-out boom-bap drums in a lot of the music here, and its in-your-face presentation ends up working quite well somehow. The samples are quite jazzy, which is par for the course, but Owlist has the advantage of shaping these up as largely pure instrumentals, so he takes a few creative liberties. The arrangements are lush, often quite detailed and altogether a real pleasure to listen to. There are times where he uses some chopped-up vocal stabs to give his songs more of a traditional structure, but otherwise, there is a very deliberately old-world feel to the vibe (if one could use such a controversial term these days).

 

 

To say that ‘Amoeba’ is split up into tracks merely by virtue of its musical content is a bit of stretch. It it ten tracks long, but unquestionably, the best way to experience this album is to listen to all of it in one go. Then the flow of the music presents itself a bit more clearly, and you realise that it is nothing but one large soundscape with a succession of ‘moments’ that puncture the calm with a switch-up here, a change there, a little pause somewhere else. Owlist has gone for a presentation that lets you happen upon these moments instead of seeing them a mile away, even when they are clearly telegraphed. For example, ‘Illusions’ is the fifth song on the album, but it really feels like the third of fourth ‘switch’. The percussions take a bit a backseat compared to more strident tracks like ‘Color Negative’, and the sample-laden approach of songs prior gives way to one that is dominated by synths, giving it a totally fresh tone in context. ‘Wild Cabbage’ retains an old-world feel to its samples but throws in an r&b ballad-style intro that goes into a sort of jittery groove with vocal chops that wouldn’t sound out of place in some classic house record. ‘Loving You’ is in the time-honoured tradition of sensual soul with its wah-laden guitars and vocal samples. ‘Red Sky’ ups the energy with some horns and a beast of a groove that’s one of the nicest on the whole thing, but these changes and moments definitely work much better in a cohesive whole. This isn’t really the album to dip into for a short two minute banger in a crowded train on your way to work.

But that’s the line ‘Amoeba’ is ready to walk. Its chosen genre is one that anyone can just turn off their brain and jump into for a few minutes, but if you enter this album with that mindset, you will find entertainment without a doubt, but you won’t get even half the experience. This album is meant for your 30-minute focus periods or whatever your phone tells you is the right time to be productive. It’s also for an evening out, and that duality isn’t common these days.

 

Listen here.

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