Earthly prefer not to sit still: Like kids racing onto the playground after a day wasted in a cold, dull classroom, or enthusiastic explorers stumbling for the first time into some wild, unknown land, the duo of Edaan Brook and Brint Hansen cavort through at least a dozen electronic niches on their beguiling debut LP, Days. From propulsive house to ponderous musique concrete, and from video-game scores to interwoven sound collages (with a touch of soul meant to round the sound), the pair regards most music as one wide world of wonder. And though that might suggest a lack of focus from two new producers sprouted from the timeline-obsessed generation, there's a preternatural ease and sophistication to their first dozen tracks. It's as though—while floating in a matrix of digital bits and samples and synths—Brook and Hansen are perfectly at home on the ground, too.
Across Days, Earthly excel in making electronic music that is both broadly accessible and defiantly eccentric. Opener "RGB" is an ornate rhythmic latticework, built with drum thuds and finger snaps, samples of popped bottle tops and a load of vocal cuts. They form a complex web of interlocking rhythms. It's challenging, sure, but the clicks and clips sound collectively contagious against one another. The effect is as distinct as Ratatat's trademark roar, as heady and alluring as Dan Deacon's approach. With its stuttering voices and EDM-oversized bassline, "Glaze" feels like a dance anthem for a club with spastic strobe lights. "Secret Squirrel" finds a deep groove, coruscating with cute little hooks. For every jungle drum, there is a twinkling key; for every cooed melody, there is a maniacal manipulation of some cartoon character.
Earthly charm with such approachable tracks—which, reductively and reactively, you might call proper pop songs. But Days is careful not to put every sound into boxes so neat or easy, so that what sits outside of those instant tunes also serves as a source of continued intrigue. "Daemon," for instance, is little more than a beautiful drone of soft static and repeated signals, decorated by the tickle of a distant electric guitar and the slow sighs of a blues trumpet. The refracted loops and fragmented rhythms of "Pure in Between" suggest the smarts of Arca, while "Babby Bobby" treats a snippet of arcane computer-generated speech as fodder for an electric gamelan workshop. With these cuts, you get the sense that Earthly are up for deeper and more sustained trips than these brief, often-playful pieces suggest. You could imagine them inching into grand compositions, a la Nicolas Jaar and his Darkside project, or creeping into the realm of experimental noise and sound art.
For now, though, Earthly excel by circling and transmitting from the intersection of all these influences. Nowhere is this more apparent and appealing than with "Games," the sonic centerpiece and emotional climax of Days. Brook and Hansen build a simple four-on-the-floor rhythm and pad it with electronics that glow like a dawn, much like the best work of The Field. But they slowly, sporadically damage the beat or scrap it altogether—sometimes adding noise around it, other times letting it swallow itself in a computer-generated ouroboros. Late in the track, they use that technique to build a wall of broken sounds, where the pulse appears from beneath a roar of madhouse voices and electrical shards. It's playful but foreboding, beautiful but deranged—a distinct display of very adult feelings and finesse for what might initially appear to be a casual 36-minute romp. Days marks an auspicious start for Earthly, as full of energy as they art deft at using it.
Label: Noumenal Loom