• Mon, Jul 13, 2020

Sandunes Bring Organic Warmth To Sample-Based Electronic Music On New EP


album Reviews Oct 01, 03:55pm

‘11:11’ is the kind of of agreeable, layered electronica that is good with herbs

No one is quite sure how Bonobo reached as many Indian ears as it did, but the British DJ went from the fringes to being on every single chill playlist in the urban party crowd in no time flat. Maybe it was the release of ‘Black Sands’ (his best album by miles, don’t @ me) and the almost simultaneous takeoff of underground electronic music in places like Bangalore and Mumbai. Maybe it was the idea of electronic music serving other genres like jazz and people using elements from one to humanize the other. Maybe it was just a few metric tons of green. We don’t know. What we do know is that the unmistakable sound of sampled organic instrumentation and layered electronic music is something a lot of us like. Well, a lot of us will like ‘11:11’, the new Sandunes EP, which takes the freewheeling organic style of the genre and gives it a little bit of everything.




It would be a sin not to highlight the production and musicality of this EP, because there is some. Sanaya Ardeshir (who is Sandunes) is trained in piano, and that shows more than anything else; the EP lives on a bed of excellent crafted synths which weave in and out of the overall mix on the five (four, really) tracks here. There are some truly delicious organs, some arpeggiated analog-sounding stuff that support some melodies, and clean, no-nonsense bass that does the job just by virtue of how clear it is. The organic, often live drums are obviously a staple of the sound, and they work here for the same reason that they’ve always been great in this context. They add a layer of warmth and groove that offsets the engineered precision of the electronic elements. This is why the sampling and incorporation of these rhythmic elements will never die; they take compositions from just good tracks to living, breathing things. Sanaya’s attitude towards these putting these elements into a listenable mix is to create flourishes and layers that cascade over each other throughout, and she manages to find enough space in the mix to avoid making things messy. All the other standard elements are also in attendance; the roomy reverb, the chords, the restrained bass. Overall, 11:11 sounds great.
The tracks themselves are solid. The title track that starts the EP off is the only one to have featured vocals, which are thankfully used in the right way. This type of music does not have recognizable hooks or big instrumental solos. They are meant to have passages flow into each other to sound sort of like a stream of consciousness. Any vocal that jumps on such tracks and treats it like a song ruins the whole thing. Luckily, in this case the vocals (credited to Landslands) are treated like an instrument, which is probably the right way to go about it. The melodic stuff is done mostly by some spacey ambience and twinkly electronic piano. There are also some throwback echoed vocal snatches that hark back to some old dub-type sounds. It is also a testament to the drums on this that every song is groovy as hell. ‘Shift’ does the rhythm thing a bit differently by using synth patterns that would happily sit in some 2000s big room EDM buildup. The little vocoder vocal samples and arpeggiated synths that enter the track later provide mere seconds of fun before the track goes through a bunch of ideas in seconds. There is a tiny four-on-the-floor interlude before some reverb-y harps and some syncopated synth stabs take control and transition the tracks through numerous transitions, drum breaks and ambient sections. Props to Sandunes for her usage of chords on this tracks, there are some really great sections towards the end of the track. ‘Glock’ is probably the standout on the EP and shows how good Sanaya is at creating tension. A Minecraft melody starts the track off, and is soon joined by probably the best supporting electric piano passage of the EP; it’s jazzy, uplifting and straight-up cool. This lays the foundation for everything from church organs, analog synth breakouts, some really groovy drums and some really chime-y sounds that play a rhythmic role. It’s the least structured but the most fun listen on here. An instrumental version of the title track is also on the tracklisting here, which is probably the done thing, since the layers and other instrumentation are catchy on their own too. ‘Ever Bridge’, which closes the whole thing out, has a decidedly 80s science fiction touch to its introductory synths, which are low, rumbling and have the bleep-bloop quality that vaporwave loves so much. The song also features some really awesome drums; so many of the tracks on 11:11 are carried by their grooves even when everything else becomes a bit much. Cool passages and fun sounds aside, this track is probably the least memorable on the EP; the song finds itself a bit stuck in the motifs that start it off, even though an incredible bassline, bombastic outro and some orchestral strings try their best to keep things interesting.


Overall, this shows that Sandunes is taking a sound and sticking to its guns. Anyone expecting something that’s minimal and has tons and tons of breathing room will find themselves completely lost on this EP, but that’s a fair choice. There is no requirement to go compositionally crazy and make these songs more obtuse than they need to be, and she realizes that there are certain points where the right thing to do is to strip away all the gymnastics and synth experiments and just give us a strong melody and a strong groove. That’s what we keep coming back to the genre for, and this will be another case of it.


Listen to " 11:11 "



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