EVAN A. JAMES “Escapist Foreplay” C34 (Adhesive Sounds)

By the time I reached “playful,” track 3 on Escapist Foreplay, the new reel spinner by Evan A. James, I became convinced that James is in fact a handful of mischievous sprites instead of a single person, flitting about inside computer programs, their activities resulting in sonic cohesion. Why? Because they’re magic, you clod, and magic makes stuff happen out of thin air! It coalesces unrelated phenomena into perceivable patterns in ways that can only make you go, “WTF, dude?!?” I submit that Evan A. James, a collection of imaginary creatures imbued with great power, has outdone itself with this tape, and although it has revealed its true identity to us (Canadian producer?! Bah!) and therefore stripped away some of its mystery, I’m still able to distance myself from this madness and learn to love the content.

The content is the key, as it becomes clear Escapist Foreplay is a collection of sixteen short tracks designed to elevate and confound in equal measure, unveiling its weird cohesion as it progresses. The shifts in style and tone are blissful, and although there are hints of vaporwave to be found – this is an Adhesive Sounds joint after all – it’s impossible to truly pin this release down. It reminds me of some of the adventurous sound design releases on Orange Milk Records, and the Evan spirits should maybe shoot Seth Graham an email, if they’re capable of holding a smartphone. (They’re magic, of course they can!)

If you want to try to wrangle the overarching stylings that the James Gang (OK, maybe that’s enough) produces here, you have to start with the idea of a film soundtrack (and there’s even a track, the closer “filmic bullshit,” that does this) – you can go through a lot of moods in one sitting with visual accompaniment, but it’s way harder to do when you’re appealing to only one sense. Then, scrutinize the detail of the composition and you get a sort of modern electronic classical, one which, again, Seth Graham would certainly relate to. Step back one more time to revel in the sheer magnitude of the stylistic cross-sections: you get dark folk (“trace”), classical string quartet (“drape,” “tunnel”), jazz (“rejoice,” “weather”), synthesizer wash (“demonwish”), and whatever “seeking” is – let’s call it the meeting between hardvapour, actual hardcore, and Queen. I don’t know, it’s great though.

The combinative powers James displays foreshadow a hopefully lengthy discography filled with excitement and wonder. It’s an established fact that he’s already got a couple of winners under his belt (his self-titled debut and Falling Out with Number 1), so it should be no surprise when he grows into fantastic creations like Escapist Foreplay. I’m ready for the next tape already – are you?

--Ryan Masteller