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Quick Hits: Asta Hiroki / Frances Luke Accord / Avalon Skies

Last updated on May 18, 2021

Asta Hiroki‘s Entropy is a brilliant collection of jazz-inflected, mellow hip-hop beats that plays out like a less chaotic Flying Lotus. Most of the tracks here are pensive, take-your-time instrumentals. Tracks like “Cherry Blossom” and “These Hands, Pt. 2” have a mysterious, Radiohead-esque mood, while the title track and “Apparition” are more upbeat and warm. “Rose-tint” is somewhere in-between; dreamy and lush in its disposition while still being spartan in the number of elements need to create the mood.

The few vocal inclusions here range from Muhsinah’s soulful vibes on “Between Love and Happiness” to the whispery declarations of Dontmesswithjuan that give “Slumber” a big trip-hop vibe. The album is solid and a great inclusion in the rotation of fans of the genre.

Frances Luke Accord makes beautiful, pristine folk-pop that sounds like equal parts Simon and Garfunkel, Joshua Radin, and Blind Pilot. Their vocals are gentle and yet excellently harmonized; their Radin-esque arrangements are so bright and delicate as to mandate smiling; their melodies are as infectious as a Blind Pilot jam. “Maria” is as close to a perfect folk-pop song as one can get in the year 2021. It’s an earnest, fingerpicked love song that is completely without guile. I can hear its lilting melodies being sung decades from now.

“Sunnyside” is more pop-oriented in its melodic structure and strums, leaning in on the Blind Pilot style. “Dust to Dust” combines the bright, pristine fingerpicking with a more pop-oriented vocal performance to blend the two styles. “The Clearing” closes out the short EP with an instrumental track of slow-moving tones juxtaposed against found sounds of nature. It’s a lovely little ender. Overall, the Sunnyside EP is just a gorgeous collection that you need to hear. Highly recommended.

Avalon Skies‘ Season Unending is a dense, intense group of four cinematic, instrumental pieces. The titular opening track is one long crescendo of dread; delicate keys are given ominous tidings by dark strings and foreboding bass synths. A wordless choir adds even more grandeur to the proceedings, before a single massive tom hit signals the end of the piece. It’s surprising and interesting. “In Search of Forever” has a similarly gloomy mood but is pushed along steadily by a kick-clap electronic beat and the headbobbing pulse of a synth. “Catalysis” amps up these two beats even further, creating a composition that is nearly dancy at times. To balance this out, the central section is a minimalist moment of a nearly a capella choir.

Closer “The Road to Awe” maxes out the tendencies of the collection, employing soaring horns (or horn-like synths), insistent beats, and booming bass synths as a foil to tender string-driven sections. It feels like it could very easily be included as part of the Inception soundtrack. Overall, the collection is an impressive display of composition that stuck with me long after its runtime. It’s not cheery, but it is beautiful in its own gloom-filled way.