Jamaica, Queens NY native Evan Lawrence, who makes music under the moniker Jelani Sei, began making music in his basement two years ago. The concept he had in mind for his music was to create the perfect sound for himself. The result of that first attempt begun two years ago has recently been released as the seven-song Atomsk Chapters, a melding of songs which are at times psychologically ethereal chill wave grooves and at other times introspective lyrical laments covered over in layers of fuzzed out electric guitar and scrappy techno inspired drum beats.
Atomsk Chapters opening track, “Kings” begins with a Middle Eastern guitar riff which echoes and ripples like the disrupted surface of water. Backed by a simple electronic drumbeat over which Jelani Sei sings his soulful vocals. “Kings” is unique in the way that it blends the soulfulness of R&B with a definite indie rock sensibility. On the next track, “Snow In” the electric guitars get turned up and fuzzed out, as do Sei’s vocals which have been turned up to show a louder and angrier version of the singer songwriter. It provides a nice energetic uplift to the flow of the album, which is then taken back down again on the sad and slow core “Calming Waves.” The song is stripped down to a clean and slow string picked electric guitar, from the center of which Sei pours out his lyrical emotions.
On “Lightout” Sei again returns to his former tricks, by beginning with soulful beats and sad sounding emo lyrics and slowly building the song into a howling of multiple electric guitars interspersing with computerized handclap beats. This pattern keeps going on the equally instrumental confusion of “You’re All I Want,” which also sees Sei adding bits of shoegaze influences to the mix. By the time one reaches “Shlowing Dawns at Noon” it feels like we are getting beat over the head by the same emotive driven lyrics and guitar riffs that don’t really form any sort of rhythm, as though they exist only to simply fill space in the song.
All in all Atomsk Chapters is an impressive debut for a work that began with a guy who had a yearning to go into the basement and figure out how to make music. That in a sense is the rawest way for an emerging artist to begin. However as every artist, famous or completely unknown knows, there will be things that work and others that don’t. It’s the ability to see what doesn’t work and be strong enough to move past it and to continue to explore a greater range of sound while still keeping a thematic cohesiveness to the album. In my humble opinion Jelani Sei isn’t quite there yet on Atomsk Chapters, though there are many hints that he has the proper map, he just needs to keep on moving.
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