HA VU looks at the electronic artist’s latest release.
John Jagos’ music has evolved significantly since his days of bedroom-recorded, experimental electropop under the name Monoteque at Ohio University. His eclectic style seamlessly combines indie, synthpop, and chill-wave, with vivid influences from glorious 80s music. It is near impossible to confine Brothertiger’s distinctive sound within a single genre. As an artist who integrates personal life and everyday experiences into his work, a recent move to Brooklyn has invariably left traces in new album Out of Touch. To stand out in New York is no simple feat: nearly every soul in the city is trying to assert their place in the world. Instead of drawing from friends’ stories as in earlier works, songs from Out of Touch show evidence of immense introspection. ‘This album is an album of self-awareness’ Jagos says, ‘making sure that I know where I am in my life, and that it is okay to be there.’
In contrast to New York’s frenetic pace of life, Out of Touch provides a momentary escape. Though a wistful and and dreamy atmosphere characterises the album, Brothertiger manages to keep the overall sound uplifting. Consistent rhythms found in each layer are precisely synchronised to create fluidity, evocative of the motion of a river. Allusions to nature and green spaces are not surprising: Brothertiger’s identity is inspired by The Jungle Book after all. Gone are the days of masking vocals with reverb. Jagos’ calm voice and signature synths are at the core of what makes Out of Touch so successful. Having developed a sturdy frame with sustained bass and jaunty percussion, his melodies and vocals are given plenty of breathing space. ‘Jungle Floor’ illustrates this particularly well: its focus on characteristic synths does not overpower Jagos’ moody lyrics, which are just on the right side of depressive. The same cannot be said for ‘Upon Veridian Waterways’, with a heavy reliance on textures and ignorance of everything else. Yet Brothertiger has managed to develop both styles without undermining the flow and coherence of the album.
Brothertiger’s extensive exploration of synths brings to mind 80s electronic duo Boards of Canada, without their heavy industrial sound and distorted beats. Though not yet radio material, ‘Beyond The Infinite’ and title track ‘Out of Touch’ definitely put the ‘pop’ in synthpop. As Jagos soothingly chimes ‘Let go of your lying eyes’, listeners are overwhelmed with a carefree vibe that masks any fear and despair. As a personal account, Jagos’ album benefits from a tasteful balance between happy and melancholy emotional states.
Though coherent with the rest of the album, Out of Touch’s final songs lose momentum and falter slightly. Inundated with synths, there is little that makes them stand out or grab the listener’s attention. Jagos’ vocals sent the first half of this album to greater heights; thus it is no surprise that neglecting them in the second half does more harm than good. ‘Drift’ and ‘Grenada’ seem to have come from the same mould, and they flirt dangerously with being boring. Since 80s-inspired introspective synth-based music is not a novel field, Brothertiger should have tuned into what distinguishes him from the crowd; the album’s latter songs fail to do this.
Perfection is not something Brothertiger has or wants to achieve. ‘I like music that disobeys the laws of quantisation, that jumps off the grid a bit’, reveals Jagos. But Out of Touch could have been more carefully balanced. This is not a faultless album, but it has largely succeeded (melodically and lyrically) in blending the cheerful with the gloomy. Brothertiger has come a long way since his debut Vision Tunnels. Whatever the album’s title might suggest, John Jagos is actually getting ‘in touch’ with what makes music his own.
Photo Credits: Brothertiger’s Bandcamp