aec.asna7.2 9/28/18 New
ID: aec.asna7.2


    Onism Astro Nautico

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Release Date: 09/28/2018


Review Text Following a pair of EPs, Onism is the full-length debut of Photay, the quasi-electronic project of New York musician Evan Shornstein. Balancing analog and digital recordings as well as natural and synthetic sound sources, Shornstein relies to varying degrees on field recordings, samples, acoustic instruments, synthesizers, and computers for his compositions, some of which are simply songs. It seems fitting, given his process, that his debut album was inspired by both nature and technology, and how they overlap in this era of climate change and social media reliance. The opener, "Screens," begins with animalistic interjections that transform into something more structured, and finally into a funky dance track that sounds as if it were fashioned by Starfleet Computer from a combination of vintage recordings and improvised electronic counterpoint. (Bird recordings are also discernible at the end.) While most of the record could be loosely described as instrumental IDM, there are a couple of songs with vocalists among the ten-track set. "Outré Lux" features jazzy R&B singer Madison McFerrin (daughter of Bobby). Two repeated string-like chords are warped by pitch bending before morphing into something more -- but not entirely -- human. The elegant McFerrin appears both solo and self-harmonizing over charged arpeggiated tones and a mix of electronic drum samples and hand drums (or simulated ones). The effect is an otherworldly mix of contemporary R&B, swing-era harmony vocals, Stravinsky, and percussive electronica. Later, the kaleidoscopic "Aura" features Shornstein himself on vocals for only the second time on a Photay release. Taken together, for its somewhat lofty inspirations and complex construction, Onism is above all a fun listen, full of discovery, whimsy, and musicality. And it's got a good beat. ~ Marcy Donelson

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