In Re­view: Jai Wolf’s “Kin­dred Spir­its”

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By JOE ANTOSHAK

jan­toshak@ches­pub.com

In the last half decade, as con­tem­po­rary elec­tronic artists have gained ma­jor footholds in pop­u­lar mu­sic, so too has the genre given home to an in­flux of sat­u­rated acts. So many sound like the stars — like Skrillex, like Zedd, like Flume — that at times it’s hard to wade through the mush.

Jai Wolf, the in­die-elec­tron­ica project of Sa­jeeb Saha, is some­thing dif­fer­ent, though it’s dif­fi­cult to pin­point how. His new EP, “Kin­dred Spir­its” (out Nov. 18 on Mom + Pop), is a mighty strong re­lease, and could see him pull some main­stream at­ten­tion.

Saha was born in Bangladesh and moved around with his fam­ily sev­eral times before set­tling in New York. He started play­ing vi­o­lin at 5 and as a high schooler per­formed with the New York All-State Or­ches­tra. He then parted ways with clas­si­cal mu­sic in fa­vor of re­leas­ing mashups un­der the name No Pets Al­lowed, un­der which he re­leased mu­sic for sev­eral years while in col­lege. That project earned him some in­ter­net at­ten­tion, but gave way to Jai Wolf in 2014.

Soon af­ter, Saha mes­saged a remix of “Ease My Mind” to Skrillex (aka Sonny John Moore) on a whim. The dub­step giant wound up sign­ing it to his label OWSLA, di­rect­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of at- ten­tion Saha’s way. Then came the 2015 re­lease of Jai Wolf’s de­but sin­gle, “In­dian Sum­mer,” which has been played on Spo­tify more than 20 mil­lion times since. It’s the sec­ond song on “Kin­dred Spir­its,” the first full com­po­si­tion of note (track one, “This Space In My Heart Is For You,” is ba­si­cally just an in­tro), and right­fully so.

Here’s the thing: “In­dian Sum­mer” is not the best song on the EP. That dis­tinc­tion has to go to “Like It’s Over,” which Saha re­leased as a sin­gle at the end of last month. It’s ter­ri­bly catchy, with the bub­ble gum voice of pro­ducer and singer MNDR thrust to the spot­light, not to men­tion rhyth­mic flour­ishes some­how akin to the 1980s synth vibe on “Night­call,” the 2010 hit by French elec­tron­ica artist Kavin­sky. “Like It’s Over,” how­ever, is far less dark and more clearly nos­tal­gia- driven.

Saha makes it ob­vi­ous on the EP that he’s most con­cerned with the prob­lems tied to hu­man con­nec­tion. By most genre stan­dards, his songs are down­tempo, some­thing like end-of-the­world love bal­lads. The sec­ond half of “Kin­dred Spir­its” is nearly per­fect in this re­gard.

Af­ter open­ing with the chiefly in­tro­spec­tive ( though not in­ac­ces­si­ble) “This Space In My Heart Is For You” and “In­dian Sum­mer,” Saha finds bal­ance with songs that ex­ter­nal­ize feel­ings more translu­cently. Much credit should be given to strong fea­tures for this. “The World Is Ours,” which is some­thing of a sonic cousin to “In­dian Sum­mer,” feels less the­mat­i­cally shrouded due to its sand­wich­ing be­tween “Like It’s Over” and “Drive,” the lat­ter of which fea­tures in­di­etron­ica act Chain Gang of 1974. There’s shape to “Kin­dred Spir­its,” which is an ac­com­plish­ment for any EP.

Be­yond that, it’s quick, and easy to lis­ten to, and it bodes well for the fu­ture of Jai Wolf. Ver­dict: 4 out of 5

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE WINDISH AGENCY

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