Extolling Nosaj Thing’s sophomore album

Alex Burnham, Writer

Los Angeles-based DJ Jason Chung, known by the stage name Nosaj Thing, recently released his sophomore album “Home” nearly four years after his debut LP “Drift.” The follow-up dropped  Jan. 22, resonating with clarity and offering a collection of fewer icy and abstract tracks than “Drift.” Chung displays a musical evolution through his ability to combine polarities into cathartic electronic music.

The first song on the album, its title track, begins with a warbling cadence of dynamic pitch changing: humming sounds that cascade into a forceful rhythm. “Home” sets the album’s tone, a confluence of melancholy realization and hopeful anticipation.

This continues throughout the track list, as somber songs fade into uplifting ballads, which in turn transition back into lugubrious melodies. These calm notes intermingle with a strong tempo — a disorienting combination. Chung extends the emotional spectrum of this album to an extreme.

Bellowing bass explodes on “Distance,” while cowbell-like tinkles ring in the background. Chung achieves the sensation of distance, but a distance that is not fully isolated. Somehow the song skirts seclusion, leaving the listener lost in sound but not altogether searching for company.

Chung also injects the influence of auxiliary electronic artists into his album. “Try (feat. Toro Y Moi)” evokes memories of the Boards of Canada, a Scottish electronic music duo. The ballad, in its calm progression, enduces emotional nostalgia. Crackling warmth grows as Chaz Bundick murmurs, “I know I did you wrong, I know I did you right,” in the foreground. This emulates Chung’s vision: an album of confliction.

“Glue” also vibrates with influence, this time from Flying Lotus. A steady hip-hop beat continues until oscillating waves of spatial synthesizers transition the song into a sedated trance. This lull lasts until the beat reemerges, ending the song without solicitude.

But the challenge for Chung, regardless of his ability to synthesize conflicting ideas, is lyrical. Most of the songs on “Home” lack any words, and the gems that do offer some semblance of speech lack intelligible verse. Listeners may criticize Chung for a lack of voice, but part of his technique is the ability to transmute emotion without words.

“Eclipse/Blue (feat. Kazu Makino)” thus protrudes from the album because it contains understandable vocals. “I used to know how to please you, and all the love were streaming through you,” Makino echoes above pulsing flashes of static ambience.

A testament to Chung’s direction, the song progresses the album toward its final destination — paradoxical ideologies still teeming.

“Home” concludes with “Light #3,” almost exactly where the album begins. But within the album, within almost every song, a transition occurs. Despite the song’s analog glitches, its shifting ethereality, its clip-clapping of drums intertwined with choral humming, “Light #3” spews catharsis. Uplifting musical notes, tones of understanding, merge with a frenzy of bass kicks.

Chung’s indelible sophomore album, complete unto itself, emerges with a collection of indispensable tracks. “Home” evidences an acute symphonic ability and the zeal of a California DJ.

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