Fast Planet isn’t another dorm room electronic pop project, despite the initial urge to categorize it that way. Instead, the Memphis collective’s four members spent 13 years making other kinds of music, parted ways, and reconnected through what became Jes (like “yes”). The experience and history shows, as each layer of lush synth and clatter in the distance is deliberately placed, the production gleaming and rich. Though a first outing, mellow and subtle, it feels closer to a masterwork– and as far as possible from any sort of dormitory.
Ambient pop is a hard genre to get right, as it can easily slip into monotony if not properly cared for. Fortunately, Fast Planet know exactly what they are doing on Jes‘s textured soundscapes. Distant, indiscernible noise paired with sustained high tones, bouncing drum beats and bass: All simple elements meticulously fused together in novel ways.”These Hills” and instrumental track “1978” represent the two ends of the spectrum found on the record, one glitchy and bouncy, the other graceful and subdued. Each piece transports the listener to a different realm; night drives and sinking in water come viscerally to mind.
The vocals act as a counterweight to the light soundscapes throughout, heavily meditative on themes such as troubled love and missed opportunities. The sparseness of the music gives the spotlight to poetic ruminations, worries and laments encouraging the listener to examine their own. Lines such as “I’ll compose a toast to what we might have been” are inescapable when the music fades to near silence.
But Jes is paradoxically at its best when the background and vocals aren’t oppositional, instead swelling into one. When “Columbus” crescendos to the last-ditch cry for a return to normalcy with the line “I’ll recreate a reason to forgive you now/ I’ll hold you close, force it out,” the music mirrors the desperation. It starkly departs from its minimal drum kick to a swirling mass of stellar sound, a surprising shift. In the scheme of the album, the risk shouldn’t really be surprising; Fast Planet takes many and makes them all work, effortlessly succeeding in every aspect of the record. Jes will be a tough debut to follow.
Essential Tracks: “Columbus”, “The Greats”