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Careful liner note readers might recognize Tommy Paxton-Beesley from such albums as Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, BADBADNOTGOOD’s Sour Soul or Kaytranada’s 99.9%.
In each case, those more established names have used the upstart multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer to enhance their vibe, and his debut full-length under his stage name River Tiber should further shore up his reputation as Toronto’s vibe-ist artist.
Just as the title Indigo evokes a dying magic-hour twilight, much of the music occupies a fuzzy space between the obvious touchstones of J. Dilla and Radiohead. At various points it might combine any number of the following ingredients: spooky and sci-fi ambience, dusty and rambling guitar, clanging percussion, silky multi-tracked falsetto melodies and heavy bass.
West, a duet with soul singer Daniel Caesar, is Indigo’s most beautiful track its chorus about “flowing west” is reflected in the gentle, low-key way the harmony heaves and sighs. At the polar opposite is the menacing Clarity, with its disquieting alien voice and druggy beat. In both cases the vocals are used impressionistically to flesh out the insular, introspective mood.
This is very much a headphones record. Each aspect of Indigo is impressively mixed to draw the ear to a particular quality of sound or turn of phrase. It’s a slow burn, but not self-indulgent – the longest track is just over five minutes – though Paxton-Beesley sometimes emphasizes ambience at the expense of dramatic thrust. Like the magic hour, the album’s effect is pleasing but fleeting.
What’s left is a vision of a producer working late into the night to get every aspect of his aesthetic just so, but the emotion or experience fuelling that work remains somewhere beyond the horizon.
Top track: West
River Tiber plays Wayhome at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds on July 22. See listing.