Canadian DJ Ryan Hemsworth gained popularity over the last few years with his reserved, groovy electronic creations. Known initially for his remixes and production work, Hemsworth’s solo career started taking off after his 2013 release Guilt Trips. Trippy and spacey, but still quite danceable, Guilt Trips cemented Hemsworth’s style: with almost exclusively halftime beats, sparse harmonic frameworks set the stage for manipulated samples and heavily layered beats to drive the action of the song.
One of Hemsworth’s latest projects is his website Secret Songs. Secret Songs releases free downloads twice a week for “friends only” (read: anyone hip enough to know who Ryan Hemsworth is [just google him]). One of the most successful songs to come from this experiment was “Keep U Warm” by the Seattle producer Lucas. Lucas wowed with his unique ear, using the sounds of crickets, running water, and plenty of other synthesized pops, splashes, and fuzzes. These bizarre sounds actually work to give his electronic music a more natural feel, anchoring the listener with the familiar essence.
Hemsworth too was drawn in by Lucas’s talent, and the two worked together to produce the 6 song, 20 minute EP Taking Flight. The two minimalist producers attempted to blend their styles for this release, and while those styles are not exactly disparate, there was a bit of tension there. At the best of times, Lucas’s creative samples and synth noises lend the character while Hemsworth uses his Powers of Ultimate Smoothness to provide a codeine haze, like in “Long Time.”
At other times though, it seems like the two step on each other’s toes. Lucas’s unique sounds work best when they are left to take the lead. The real draw of “Keep U Warm” are the sounds. Hemsworth is more partial to the groove of the song taking the lead. Songs like “From Grace” show promise, and then slowly creep into the world of “a little too much going on.” Hemsworth’s focus on groove detracts from the super interesting sounds of Lucas, and Lucas’s noises essentially pull the listener out of the velvet coma that Hemsworth is so adept at providing.
Taking Flight has a few issues, but it is a strong first effort from a duo with a lot of potential. These are clearly two incredibly talented people with good ears. What is most encouraging is Hemsworth’s decision to work with Lucas. In a genre that is constantly walking a fence between overproduced and boring, Hemsworth brought in someone that focuses on the sounds being made, not just hooks and beats. Lucas’s clear dedication to making visceral and interesting electronic music is encouraging to say the least.