Album Review: Electric Sunset – Electric Sunset

Electric Sunset is a one-man project fronted by Nicolaas Stewart, former head of Olympia, WA chillwavers Desolation Wilderness. Stewart left his old band, packing his bags for the Bay Area and focusing in on a new sound–one that’s brighter and more electronic, danceable but soporific, with greater clarity and less sway. It’s a nice sound, very chill and wavy, with lightly distorted vocal phrasings and shimmery guitars, reverb-drenched atmospherics. He’s adopted many of the elements that have launched similar artists into the public consciousness over the past couple years or so. Unfortunately, on Electric Sunset these elements fail to come together; the album does a fine job at bringing to mind visions of late-afternoon strolls along side the ocean or nights spent necking under the stars, but it fails to transport you there.

San Francisco is a fitting environment for Stewart, where in landlocked Olympia his beach rhythms seemed a tad off. However, given his more appropriate locality, there’s less of a programmatic element to his new sound then you might think. It was easy to get lost in the organic guitar wahs and light organs of Desolation Wilderness. But Electric Sunset comes off as more calculated, with lesser purpose. The music washes you without really grabbing your attention; it’s the type of album you might hear at a party without realizing you ever listened to it.

This isn’t always a bad thing. “Soda” is breezy and amiable, with a cascading verse and catchy chorus to compliment Stewart’s quips about hanging out on the sidewalk and drinking fizzy beverages. “Future Dream” is a synthy surf-pop number with luminous splashes of reverb and a soothing melody. Both tracks are engaging to an extent, and do the best at replicating the imagery Electric Sunset attempts to illicit.

“Infinity Avenue”, with its California ooh ahh’s and hooky beach-pop verses, would be a standout track were it not for the first minute and a half of pointless dissonance. In fact, the songs where Stewart gets overly-knobby and effects driven are the album’s biggest missteps. The better tracks are rooted in simple guitar lines, with the effects piled around the periphery. Laptop-centric tracks such as “Palace” and “Morning City” are too contrived, lack skill, and are sonically weak—you don’t become lost in the music, the music becomes lost on you.

This doesn’t mean Stewart should bury his head in the sand. The album does have its sweet spots scattered throughout, and the music definitely doesn’t offend. There’s just not a whole lot to latch onto, and the tunes don’t resonate as well as some of the Desolation Wilderness songs. But at its better moments, the album is joyful, and if you’re paying attention, will evoke a mild state of pleasure—ostensibly fulfilling its duty as the latest in chillwave.


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