Drowning Sound Exploration
As Pinklogik, Bristol-based electronic musician Jules Straw unveiled a surprising gem in the form of Glint back in 2018 (see The Electricity Club review previously). Bouncing between electronica and dreampop, the album offered up a reflective approach that still retained a deft hand for beats and rhythms.
Zip forward two years and Straw has teamed up with producer/composer Em Baker of Plike to form Wire & Wasteland. Return To The Light, which showcases their collaborative efforts, treads similar ground to Glint albeit with perhaps a harder edge in places. Here, Straw’s distinctive vocals offer up an emotional flatness to them at times, yet also a compelling, ethereal element that’s tough to ignore.
Return To The Light is a relatively brief affair, with just five tracks to showcase the collaboration between Straw and Baker. But that limited selection works in its favour in some ways. There’s certainly no fat on display here, but just solid tunes from start to finish.
There’s a gothic sensibility with ‘Both Ways’, a track that with a weighty sense of mood to it, at times evocative of Empathy Test. It employs a subtle sense of melody and rhythm with a slow-burning aspect that marks it out as one of the album’s best moments.
‘Scar Tissue’, meanwhile, presents a more fractured composition. Chittering electronics battle with shimmering elements to offer a tune that has an oddly hymnal facet.
Elsewhere, the marine pop perfection of ‘Gravity’ has a distinct dubby quality to it. Here, Straw’s vocals radiate an hypnotic draw while the lyrics explore intriguing abstract ideas (“I can taste the white noise”).
There’s a change of gear with the tumbling percussion at play on ‘This Drowning Sound’. Its dreamlike qualities are reflected in the lyrics (“Wishing for a dream I had”), while its tight rhythms give the whole affair a surprising dynamism. As a result, it offers up another of Return To The Light’s best moments.
‘Tracing The Line’ is a much busier outing with its industrial percussion and electronic layers. At times sounding like a lost tune from a WipEout soundtrack, Straw’s vocals alternate between ghostly intermissions and fragmented soundbites.
Em Baker’s production gives the music room to breathe across the album, maintaining its liquid rhythms while also keeping Straw’s vocals sharp and clear.
Return To The Light will appeal to those that like tunes that scribble in the borders between electronic music and trip hop. As an album, it presents a charming gem that certainly deserves a broader audience.
Return To The Light is out now.