Emancipator taps into his scopious musical roots on the exemplary ‘Baralku’ [Album Review]
Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… that Doug Appling will need to retreat indoors to adhere to a pattern that has long defined the perennial producer since he debuted his Emancipator moniker eleven years ago. This pattern of silent introspection is one that has, in turn, allotted an intimate offering of landscapist, waning, sonic multitudes.
Like a bear emerging from hibernation, Appling too awakens; batting his eyes, hungry, and ready to exude his reserved energy. For each time Emancipator resurfaces, he releases not just a full-length record — undoubtedly a gift — but a situated anomaly in electronic music. The very existence of a musical act like Appling is an oddity in itself, as he emits a transient hybrid of jazz, electronica, bossa nova, chillwave, and downtempo hip-hop.
Listeners are offered more than a simple glimpse into the psyche of Appling and his relationship to music, nature, creatures, and the seasons in his work; in fact, he gives them access to something far more profound.
Unlike his contemporaries who too attain ethereal elegance, Emancipator exudes tempos and fills rooms with a panache that has the veracity to bring his listeners to tears. He sheds a layer for his listeners, whether it be in the palpable nature of his music, or in his gorgeously employed violin. It’s likely he does so in hopes that his listeners will too.
Few artists manifest parallelable beauty or nail the longevity of a song like his work does. Undoubtedly, it would be difficult to observe or create in the spirit of the world as eloquently as Appling. His music serves as a reminder that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and that life’s grand mystique is all a part of the blissful process.
Each new Emancipator release serves as a communicable feast for listeners to join him in devouring, and after a long few winters of hibernation from the prodigious talent, a new release would be nearly impossible to resist indulging in. Luckily, he’s come forth with a new work, the full-length LP Baralku, which he will be touring extensively come early 2018.
Baralku is distinct, and yet, it’s expectedly eloquent in thematic scope and the employment of Emancipator’s refined style. It’s also an aptly named work.
Named for an astral spirit island in the Milky Way where departed souls build fires to let their loved ones know they arrived safely in the afterlife, Appling exudes this blissful aura of beauty in the emotive embers left dwindling on the record.
“Music takes me to places, and each song is a spirit island on which its soul lives infinitely. To release a song is both a death and a birth at the same time.”
He continued, “The sounds contained in each song have reached the end of their life process. The once shapeshifting collage of expression has been crystallized into a final form, no longer kinetic. Yet it exists in a state of permanent potential energy, waiting to be accessed in the form of music, just as the memory of a departed soul will always have the power to move us.”
Regardless of whether his music has directly hit on the concept by way of its names, its vehement quality has long emitted the sonic virtues of rebirth, renewal, and total desolation — all at once.
“First Snow,” a track on his debut album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… is itself an encapsulation of this aforementioned multitude. Of course, it’s a celebration of the new season, of innocence, but like the album’s name, “First Snow” also emotively reminds us that with a first snow’s beauty also comes death — of vegetation, of the season, and of warmth.
While his music is filled with stark multitudes like the above, it’s largely through enveloping sonic warmth that its impact strikes. Emancipator’s music drapes over his listeners, like a cozy blanket or a warm fire on a cold night.
On Baralku, he adheres to his archetypally poised encapsulation.
The album sets off on the impassioned epic “Baralku,” electronically-tinged in its commencement, the tune transforms into a speechless-rendering violin ballad. Appling sets the tone for the remaining thirteen tracks to follow with “Baralku,” an enormous feat he handled with precision. “Baralku” also hints that the culmination of tunes to follow will shine in their marvelously meticulous production. Additionally, he imbues a sense of sonic suspension, for in the track’s beginning, it would seem as if a violin would never be integrated, and yet, the instrument proceeds to serve as the track’s central force.
But such is the beauty of Emancipator’s work.
In the eleven years since the inception of his idiosyncratic amalgamation of styles, Appling’s generated steadily escalating buzz. On the strength of four previous albums — Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… (2006), Safe In The Steep Cliffs (2010), Dusk to Dawn (2013), and Seven Seas (2015) —plus several remixes and EPs, Appling has now achieved his most artistically integrated piece of work. Each work over the years has poured over his styles in a tastefully experimental fashion, but Baralku exudes a euphonious sap, oozing throughout the work in a multitude of facets.
Wherein the fusion of hip-hop is pronounced on the record — in numbers like “Abracadabra” or “Udon” — the record also capitalizes on experimentality and nuanced flow.
“Baralku” even withstands impeccably effervescent transitions. From the aptly named situational awakening of “Bat Country,” sonically reminiscent to waking in a field upon getting swarmed by bats, disoriented, and finally overjoyed in one’s own safety — to the open, waning quality of the jazz-tinged “Pancakes,” to the seemingly odd, but effortless marriage of the organ and banjo on “Rappahannock,” Emancipator elongates his established decorum.
Emancipator has situated Baralku as an unexpectedly autobiographical journey to the island of Baralku. Between his mastery of structure and improvisation, Appling reaches a multifarious destination — where the soul lives on in eternity, aware of life’s multitudes, embracing and reflecting on them wholeheartedly in the astral afterlife.
Baralku is available to purchase here.