96 Back – Cute Melody, Window Down!

5 out of 5

Label: Local Action

Produced by: Evan Majumdar-Swift

Ever evolving, 96 Back has grown immsenely from an already impressive start in the glitchy Aphex IDM realm of electro – a crowded scene, shadowed by its 90s Rephlex influences, but in which 96 (Evan Majumdar-Swift) nonetheless managed to stick out – incorporating more and more enhancements to his style from release to release. This is one of the signs that makes a new artist, for me, one to watch: when their experiments aren’t necessarily trying on new hats all the time, but rather deepening their own toolbox of tricks, further differentiating how their toolset differs from others.

And so 96 Back kept pushing on the borders of IDM, eventually winding up at last year’s intriguing but uneven Love Letters, Nine Through Six: a still developing artist’s attempt at injecting some more direct emotion into a generally wordless, digital musical form. Though repeated listens brought me more and more joy with that album, it ultimately feels a bit forced at points.

But Evan moves fast.‎ Now, Cute Melody, Window Down!’s quirky, carefree title is representative of the way the artist has shrugged off those weighty intentions, but in so doing has not dumped them completely – they are once again incorporated anew, and blended into a new swirl of glitch and house and IDM, going even further out with goofier works like ‘Goth Stuff’ that sit perfectly against chill tracks like opener Lounge II, or the the mindwarp beats of When U Stop, all of it allowed to poke and prod at those Love Letters emotions, making the album’s ending track – which is very similar to that album’s style – so much more poignant and affecting in this context.

This is a slick, fun, and impactful album. It’s memorable right from the outset; it goes down easy but hits deep. And 96 Back does this all while staying true to that toolbox of affectations he’s worked on this whole time.