Andre Obin – The Arsonist

Rating: ★★★★ ·

We rarely think of electronic artists carrying stage presence. We rarely consider live performance an important aspect of an electronic act. Andre Obin won electronic performer of the year according to hometown Boston’s Music Awards.

The reality is that having good material can trump all. The latest album effort from Andre is called The Arsonist, assumingly for the strong third track we have shared here. But we’ll get there, let’s start at the beginning.

The first seven minutes of the record is dedicated to a song called “Golden Hair”, a simple progression of tones set the stage for an oncoming bassline that starts in the higher octaves and is filled in with angrier deeper synth tones and an inevitable drum track no less that two and half minutes in. I love the slow builder, though formulaic, when the right sounds are peppered in, it can be raise the hair on your arms at high volume. This sends me right to my roots in electronic music of GOA trance, D&B and bands like Orbital and Higher Intelligence Agency. Lofty affected vocals, allegory to Rapunzel, fill the content so the wife doesn’t get mad about songs with out words.

“Blue Powder” changes things up a beat, slows it down, less dream, more synth ballad. Lyrically soft, but intentionally, so, think M83. Title track next, holy crap, I love this song. And quite honestly, it may be the biggest barrier to me upping the score on the album. It is a stand out for me, setting an unreasonable bar.

“Lemondrop” peppers in more M83 vibe, maybe even a little chill wave meets Massive Attack, coolly hollowed breaks and dominant drum track. “Soft Rain” is the probably the poppiest jam on the album. I used it in the SxSW preview and the synth hook makes you smile. Mood changer. “Gazelle” is a mantra-driven darker jam, perhaps the low point on the album for me, but the previous and next tracks are that much better. “Enjoy” deploys the longwave synth bassline and high atmospheric tags that I have always been a sucker for. It is brow down driving music.

The 43 minutes with Andre ends with track eight, “Anthem”. It is a statement, kind of all the things he loves in one song. Big synth hooks, changing tempo, breaks and beats; I think Andre is a Gary Numan fan. The circular lyrics run, “it’s a lot to take home, the thoughts that take hold, there’s so much at stake, it’s a lot to take.”

Unfortunately, my brief SxSW encounter was a late night technical difficulty. The tracks I heard performed were hampered by I/o issues, but did still sound solid as he tours with a drummer and and synth/bass/guitar. I would like to see him again in a proper setting…