The electronic music scene in the last few years has seen a massive surge of bedroom producers pushing out heavily experimental compositions, helping pave the way for younger artists to continue exploring their own creative depth. Despite new music and next-big-hits rushing over us, true gems and thought-provoking albums are being buried away among the trends of dance-heavy hard-hitters. Our pal, Matt Tammariello, better known by his moniker Shortcircles, dropped his debut album earlier in July after two years of building anticipation for what he would produce.
Between Waves, in a big picture, is one of the most introspective and thoughtful LPs I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and engaging with in the last seven months. It’s a chronicle of Tammariello’s production evolution over the last two years and merges his friends slash fellow producers slash roommates (Glenn Jackson and Adam Myatt) vocals and instrumentation into his pieces. The Oakland electronic music scene is intimate, allowing for would-be fanciful compositions and collaborations to take on warm and emotive sounds, which Tammariello highlights in Between Waves.
Having had the pleasure of acquainting myself with the album for awhile now, the emotional rollercoaster Shortcircles takes listeners through makes for an intensely reflective journey. In “You Will Carry This With You Forever,” featured near the beginning of the album, the lush and ambient piano is absolutely heartbreaking to consume. With trills in the background reminiscent of his older songs like “Everythingyoulove(disappearsovernight),” Tammariello uses these trademark sounds to connect his past to current musical endeavors. Despite the beginning tracks pushing out heavily personal soundscapes, Between Waves does a fantastic job of balancing out darker instrumentals with female vocals and even, on occasion, a brighter tempoed track like “Tunnels.”
The overarching theme of the album’s instrumentation incorporates heavily stripped down production weaved with ethereal vocals and sparse moments of intricately layered samples of drums, bass, saxaphone, piano, and chimes. Using this as a thread, Tammariello takes every facet of these conceptual pieces and creates rich compositions, rippling with warmth and sensuous energy. Most of the tracks sit between the 5:30 to just over 6 minute marking points, allowing for a more holistic exploration of these soundscapes and gradual layer-building to take place. This is best felt in songs like “Patience,” having an almost deconstructed hip-hop, R&B, and dream-pop type melodies meld together, and the title track “Between Waves,” a surprisingly complex piece and one of the most introspective tracks off of the entire LP.
The weaved form of ethereal vocalists, deconstructed beats and melodies, and simplified layering comes to a head in the album’s single, “On My Mind.” Admittedly, this song had taken a bit longer for me to grow to enjoy in comparison to the rest of the album, but after playing it through a dozen times it’s now one of my favorites from Between Waves. It was a bold move for Shortcircles to use this as the lead single from the album, especially because of how much different of a production style it encompasses for Tammariello. This choice served as a marked shift and statement for Tammariello – a push for ceaseless evolution and growth, and not allowing himself to be pigeonholed in any one genre or thematic idea.
With “You Will Carry This With You Forever” being one of my other favorites off the LP, I was drawn to the closing track, which happens to be a reprise of the same song. It’s even more introspective than the version towards the head of the album and is, in a sense, more subdued in its composition, finishing Between Waves on a melancholic note. The ending to the track itself is also ambiguous, which plays up the idea that Tammariello himself is unsure of where his musical endeavors will take him next.
Overall, the album shows substantial attention to detail and well-executed composition while also exploring new sounds as compared to previous Shortcircles releases. It’s best listened to alone on a sleepless night, where heavy, soul-encompassing reflection is taking place. Between Waves can be hard to chew on at first and deserves a few listen-throughs to fully appreciate the depth it has to offer but it can be worth the time. Some stand-out tracks are “All I Can Be For You,” “On My Mind,” “Sometimes Things are Exactly as They Seem,” “Patience,” and “You Will Carry This With You Forever.”