(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Sam Gellaitry – Escapism III EP

By on Tuesday, 11th April 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Sam Gellaitry Escapism III EP album coverIf you haven’t yet heard of Scottish electronic producer Sam Gellaitry, you’d best be getting educated now. The prodigy from Stirling, who started making music at the tender age of 12 no less, appeared in a blizzard of appearances at SXSW 2017 last month, giving audiences in Austin a treat for the ears while letting them watch the master at work. I was lucky to see him open the 4AD showcase on the outdoor stage at the Mohawk on Friday night, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough time for me to enjoy his live artistry fully. Luckily for you and me, just last Friday he dropped the final part of an EP trilogy, ‘Escapism III’, so even if you haven’t had a chance to see him perform live, you can relish his songs in the privacy of your own home. And at less than 20 minutes in total length, you ought to give this collection a chance.

The first two tracks on the EP were revealed as early tasters, and it’s easy to see why. ‘The tropical aspect of ‘Jungle Waters’ comes from the vaguely tribal drum beats and plucks of a guitar. However, it’s Gellaitry’s virtual conducting of an emotionally rich string section, its swelling and falling, that are truly the star of the song. ‘Ceremony’ is more hip, more what most people would expect from a 21st century electronic producer. The breakneck speed of its rhythm and the elements added in only get broken up by the almost hymn-like synth chords that he uses to slow down the proceedings from time to time. The whimsical notes of a flute flit around like a butterfly, one that can’t land or stay for very long because the object of its affection is moving far too quickly.

Standout ‘Midnight Racer’ follows with more appropriately futuristic effects. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s never too much for a track that clocks in at less than 4 minutes. Glittery synth arpeggios gently lead you into the belly of the beast: a high-energy, yet blissed out track with harp strums and descending musical ‘bombs’. ‘Ever After’ closes the EP, slowing and smoothing things down but in Gellaitry’s way, with staccatoing jazzy and r&b notes bouncing off the background before we have to leave his world.

The most unusual moment on ‘Escapism III’ is ‘Acres’, a song that Gellaitry himself has confirmed contains no synths. Wait a minute, come again? No synths on an electronic music track? Let me explain. It wouldn’t be wrong calling Gellaitry a classical composer, that is, an alternative one who happens to use electronics means to arrive at an end. Angelic vocals, lush string orchestration and stark piano chords come together with what sounds like a mournful but reined in bagpipe line. The only clue that this could be possibly classed as dance is the light hand of an electronic drum beat. What is it that makes Sam Gellaitry a unique prospect and increases his potential for future success? His artistic technique can be approached intellectually by electronic heads like me, but anyone who has an appreciation for beautiful music can also be drawn into the soundscapes he creates and easily. ‘Escapism III’ is electronic music as cerebral as you want it to be.

8.5/10

The ‘Escapism III’ EP by Sam Gellaitry is available now from Beggars imprint XL Recordings. I suspect that this Scottish wunderkind will be wowing us with new music sooner than later, so bookmark this link to what should be a growing archive of coverage on the electronic musician and producer.

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