Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Album Review: "Wedding Bells EP" by Cashmere Cat

Wedding Bells EP was released on Feb. 11 on
Amidst a bass-heavy dance music craze, it's become increasingly hard to find folks that turn the craft into much more than drop-ready club bangers. Elements from southern hip-hop begin to bleed their way into glitchy dance tracks and next thing you know everyone is "turning up" to the sounds of early 00's hip-hop memories, meshing nostalgia with hype for a sure-fire groover. Understanding the formula to lots of EDM acts can in a sense make you appreciate those outliers much more, but now we find that these outliers are the ones that have begun making their way into the mainstream. Take Cashmere Cat for example, where other folks are providing insular takes on screwed and chopped trap beats, Magnus August Høiberg instead crafts ornate soundscapes that are peppered with subdued bursts of bass, blistering hi-hats, squeaky bed springs and shimmering keys.

Høiberg was no stranger to the electronic scene prior to Cashmere Cat, the 26 year old Norwegian producer was a DMC World DJ finalist for years until he turned towards crafting his current style of music. In 2012 Cashmere Cat burst onto the scene with his debut EP Mirror Maru, introducing the world to his brilliantly juxtaposed styles. Cashmere Cat's textures are build around perfectly pitched vocal samples, blissful keys and harps, obscure percussive hits and an R&B inspired swing that makes you want to slow dance as much as throw bows. Høiberg's styles are versatile, allowing him to seamlessly switch between the standard EDM tropes of bass-laden bangers and intricately woven takes on cloud-rap. Remixes of Lana Del Ray and 2 Chainz gave Høiberg a slew of attention and he most recently produced a Ludacris track "Party Girls," substantially upping his production creds.

This rich and diverse background is important to take note of when jumping into Wedding Bells, as it contains bits of every previous endeavor that Høiberg has gotten into. The EP's opener "With Me" opens with a plaintive piano line before slowly unfurling with sharp synth lines, reverb washed vocal samples and bright, bouncy keys. All of this reaches a precipice before falling out of the mix and introducing a pitchy vocal sample that fades away to lend way to primal drumbeats, distorted synths and glimmering harps. "With Me" is a wonderful snapshot of Cashmere Cat's aural stylings and takes the listener on a brief but bountiful journey through rich soundscapes of various backgrounds. Tracks like "Pearls" dig even deeper into this established array of sounds, meshing unconventional percussive samples with smooth, pitchy vocals. It's all an immensely enjoyable listening experience, especially the title track "Wedding Bells," which obviously meshes the titular bells into Høiberg's typical structures.

While there's certainly an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality that can apply to this, it's a bit disappointing to see that Høiberg didn't delve deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole here. There's a lot of things on Wedding Bells that could have easily been found on Mirror Maru, which is a shame since Høiberg's live show contains a lot more diversity than found on Wedding Bells. It's clear that Høiberg has a lot of interesting tricks up his sleeve that he can pull out within the future of Cashmere Cat, and make no doubt, Wedding Bells is still a fantastic release, but it'd be a bit more enjoyable to see hints of some sort of aural development coming along.

Rating: 7.9
Standout Tracks: "With Me", "Wedding Bells", "Rice Rain"

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