Electric85 – Ocean Session – EP Review
Back already! You gotta love that. Feels like it was just yesterday that I got switched onto the music of Electric85 based out of Seattle…yet it was back in late September this year that I got my first introduction to their music with a two-song sampling of their debut album, called Oceans Away. Released in the summer of 2021, apparently the duo of Ian Piña & Kent Worthington in Electric85 weren’t done with this 365 yet…and I suppose…well…here we are! They’ve got a brand-new EP coming out on December 17th called Ocean Session…a new six tunes that strip back their sound a lil’ more than what you might have become accustomed to…but make no mistake, they don’t skimp on entertainment.
It’s a piece here & a piece there from their past records, reimagined & refreshed for ya on this new EP from what I can tell. Starting with the title-track from what looks like the first record they released back in 2020 as Electric85 began to invade the playlists out there online with their smooth grooves, “Spacewoman” comes out slidin’ through your speakers with a silky psychedelic vibe flowing through it. Vocally…believe it or not, I think there are more comparisons to be made to someone like Mick Jagger than you might expect to find in a band that makes music like Electric85 does, which gives this first cut a unique dimension of its own. It’s not an overt characteristic anyhow…just an observation for a sound that seems to pop in & outta the vocals every so often…mind you, I think you could also make a few comparisons to Beck in that regard too & you’d get no flack from anyone on that comparison. In any event, no matter what kinda comparison you might find “Spacewoman” draws a similarity to or who you might feel like they sound like, this first cut hits the mark…it’s as interesting of an idea as it is groovin’ to listen to, and I dig how Electric85 lights it UP every so often, if only to make sure we haven’t nodded off in the midst of this hazy, smoke-filled vibe. All-in-all, for the most part…the majority of this opening cut, “Spacewoman” is a really mellow opener, which personally I kinda dig on a structural level…it gives the EP room to expand from here on in, while still supplyin’ your speakers with a shiny sound that provides a sensory energy you wanna explore further & highlights that outright amp-up the excitement along the way. A fairly chilled-out Psych/Rock cut at its core…it’s still got just enough of a spark to it that it’ll have no problem catching your interest; and while there’s always some risk in starting out a record at a mid-tempo pace, Electric85 seems to have no issues generating a stellar start with us all on “Spacewoman.” From start to finish, I might even be inclined to tell ya it’s one of the record’s strongest overall cuts as well.
Let’s not get confused here – Electric85 is ultimately still discovering their sound and what it is exactly that they’re capable of – with their first songs only having come out about a year & a half ago, it’s only natural that we’re gonna hear some spots where potential exists for the band to evolve. Which, as I always point out in these scenarios, is a damn good thing – the opposite situation would be pure hell. On the extremely positive side of something like “Reasons Why,” I can tell ya they’re onto something here without question; it might still need a bit of time in the incubator, but not really all that much. When you hear the way the bass comes out bouncin’ with the beat as “Reasons Why” starts to get rollin’ along, you can’t help but get right into the addictive catchiness they’ve got goin’ on. You factor in those sparkling guitars, wild synth vibes showin’ up, and what’s a noteworthy vocal performance that takes a hybrid approach that drifts between straight-ahead hooks the masses can absorb & artistically-inclined moments that would appeal more to the Indie crowd out there…there’s a lot of potential in “Reasons Why.” Now…where things get a bit more difficult is in maintaining what we all love goin’ on, and finding that balance within their own exploratory methods to create the versatility in their music – almost anything you’ll ever listen to with an artistic bend to it, or genuine uniqueness of some tangible sort, are going to experience moments of trial and error – the key is knowing when to throw that switch, 100%. So in a case like “Reasons Why,” as it started out, I’m immediately thinking Electric85 has found a great way to generate sincerely single-worthy sound and an enticing gateway in for the people out there, but as it carried on, the scope of its potential narrowed as they continued to innovate their way through this track. Some of the additions along the way work out great – especially towards the end in the finale in tandem with the vocal hooks on repeat – that’s an example of things workin’ out right as they should be. In contrast, you’ve got moments like around the first chorus hook that could potentially come out a bit stronger & spots like around the 1:30 mark that have them navigating through a brief collapse. The main issue becomes that they would probably know comments are coming for a spot like that one I’ve cited specifically…and it’s an avoidable thing…Electic85 has got all the time in the world to make sure those corners are all rounded out as smoothly as possible unless some record exec is pokin’ them with a sharp stick. It’s somewhat of a reminder of just how tough things can be at the start of a band; you’ve not only gotta find your sound and discover what works well enough to even begin, but right around the corner from that, is being as objective as possible and having some very real conversations. Best guidance I’ve got for them in terms of a track like “Reasons Why” is to take a real look at that instant degree of massive appeal on this song, or any for that matter, and make sure to keep those standards in place from there forward…I appreciate the desire to do things differently for sure, but using that on a case-by-case basis is gonna be the right call to make; as in, sometimes when things are flowin’ along as smoothly as they do at the start & end of this song, you don’t wanna deviate too much to taint that accessibility. The middle of “Reasons Why” could use a bit of sharpening up, time & experience is all – the bottom line is, Electric85 shows major promise with the positives that they do pack into this cut.
On the strength of the bass-lines and guitar in “4th State Of Mind” alone, I’d have given this track an enthusiastic thumbs-up…and there’s much more to be enjoyed than that to be discovered on this tune. I’m not gonna go as far as to say it’s not still without a few quirks here in the beat & vocals that could have been potentially smoothed out a bit more, or been a little more immersed in feeling the incredible vibe they’re working with…but for the most part, “4th State Of Mind” is a pretty damn addictive track on the whole. Any tiny things that I could cite to be tightened up a little would only ever be that – a little – at the end of the day, the hooks and instrumentation on this track should be enough to win just about anyone over in my opinion. Vocally, the chorus has such an impeccable hook…I’m challenging Electric85 to get in there and really heckin’ FEEL IT…but I do like what I hear – a LOT already as it is. As they switch it up for a moment in the bridge around the 2:30 mark they even start to remind me a little of early, old-school Chili Peppers…which is my own favorite era of the band, I suppose if I had to choose…and a large part of that is for the same reasons as to why I’m still fully onboard with “4th State Of Mind” – it wasn’t that the music was completely without flaws – it wasn’t – but the vibe, energy, hook, and pull was so damn real & gripping & unpredictable, that it seemed to make everything exciting to listen to, and alive. I felt that same kind of raw magic and potential brewing in “4th State Of Mind” – it’s not a song that NEEDS to be perfect…I ain’t sayin’ that it would help, but I am saying that as it is now, it’s already got just about everything it needs to succeed. A real case of how a song will win you over the more you end up repeating it…I dunno…call me crazy but I’d take a cut like this over most out there in the scene any day of the week, even if it’s a little bit rough at points…there’s uniqueness here, the ideas are impressive and point to serious thought & creativity being put in from performance to production. Ultimately, it’s songs like “4th State Of Mind” that really have me believing in what Electric85 does – they’re good now, but as they continue to hone into their combined talents and refine their sound, they’re gonna be great. A track like this has all the flavor and character of something like Mellowdrone, which, no lie, is right up my alley, and a band that resides on my playlist…so don’t get it twisted; I’m observing, not complaining.
Bringing songs back for a second round gives you all kinds of opportunities to do something differently, try new things, and even fix mistakes that could have existed prior – but at the end of the day, if this is the route that you’re choosing to go, you wanna bring the songs back with purpose. Whereas a track like “4th State Of Mind” might not have been perfect, it’s a nearly perfect moment in time, you dig? And like I said…that’s the kind of cut that has me confident Electric85 has got what it takes to do some really rad stuff in music over the future to come. “Phenomena” is almost the polar opposite of how I felt about that last cut…this is the track that makes me worry a bit more about’em than I was before. Don’t get me wrong – I know exactly how tough it can truly be to toss a song, leave one behind, or even never get it as right as we might want…so I’ve got a lot of empathy for a band like Electric85 that seems to be trying to make “Phenomena” work, when it might just be time to leave it behind. The thing is, a lot of the verses have some really awesome stuff happening that would be damn near impossible to leave behind…like, verging on Band Of Horses kind of terrain almost, which is extremely cool in my opinion. Where “Phenomena” gets the best of them is largely through the vocals of this track; the hooks have an awkwardness to them, and you’ll find a few other spots along the way that seem uncomfortable as well – there are a couple ticks in the recording that provide a small spike in the music too…it’s hard not to feel like more time was required for “Phenomena” to reach the full potential it could possibly have. On that note, I’m still not 100% sure about that myself…I think there’s a hook here…like, ultimately I dig where they’re trying to go with the chorus…but it’s just missing that consistency needed within the tone by a slight enough margin to make the difference. Low-key can be one of the hardest energies for a singer to work within…and like I said, there are no real issues at all in the verses, I like the way those are sung…it’s just those lead-in lines to the chorus & the chorus itself that seem to be just wide of the mark. To me, what I’m hearing is the difference between knowing a song really well, and knowing it inside & out – and right now, Electric85 still needs a bit more time with “Phenomena” to make it work the way they want it to. They’re more than capable…it’s all about patience, time, experience, practice…repeat.
“Tomorrow’s Life” is another solid display of the innovative approach they’re taking and ideas that are going to eventually lead them straight into the future of the Electric85 sound. It’s early on…I ain’t gonna get on their back too much about the tiniest details of production that could potentially get a bit more outta these tunes overall, they’re finding their way in that regard and their own organic instincts, as they get refined over the years, will be what achieves victory for them – not some advice from hack like me. I really like the spoken-word side of this track as it begins…I like the guitar melody & beat along with it as well…I think the initial plunge into the singing comes through a little jarring but not too extreme, and the lyricism is highly poetic, observant, and well thought-out – there are a lot of noticeable positives within “Tomorrow’s Life” that reveal a slightly different side of the sound of Electric85 & a deeper artistic bend. Listen to where things really smooth out around the 2:45-3:00 mark…LOVE the clarity there…and the groove to follow switches it up to a more upbeat energy that the people listening out there will dig on for sure. Once they’re through the spoken-word half of this song, they actually remind me a lot of Vancouver’s Magik Spells…Electric85 has a similar knack for finding organic rhythms & hooks that make for genuinely memorable moments, and you’ll find that comes to life in the finale of “Tomorrow’s Life.” In a way, it kind of plays like a Part I & Part II type-scenario…which I’m cool with…I think for some, it might create a slight imbalance in terms of liking one half more than the other, but ultimately I think there’s lots worth your time to listen to in each part, even if they do feel a bit more like separate vibes. The guitar really ends up with a significant highlight as “Tomorrow’s Life” plays on…I like that they’re incorporating real art, spoken word, and poetry into the mix here…to me, these are the kind of unique ideas that as Electric85 continues to evolve over the years, will lead them into the band they wanna be.
For about the first thirty or forty seconds of “Worlds Collide,” I wasn’t quite sure how this final experience was gonna go. Little dicey on the vocal melody there…which is somewhat confirmed by how strong this last cut becomes after that initial verse & intro to the chorus – as the music comes alive and gets more involved, exploratory, adventurous, and inventive, the vocals become a much more essential part of the vibe in the thick of it all. Because I’ll tell ya this folks…as far as their actual sound is concerned, I’d definitely be taking a huge look at this whole song as part of the blueprint forward. So what if I think there’s a bit left on the table for the vocals as “Worlds Collide” begins? Maybe it could be stronger, maybe it’s already perfect for y’all as it is now…we all listen with a different set of ears. All I can tell ya for sure is, that once I’m through the beginning and into the remaining three minutes of pure sonic brilliance on “Worlds Collide,” to me, this last track became nothing BUT relentlessly addictive. Electric85 really lets loose at the end here…and the more they’re feeling it, the more we are too – this is where you hear the band embracing the moment, losing themselves within it perfectly, and executing with the natural confidence that comes along with knowing you’ve latched onto something significantly special. The way this track evolves and grows is nothing short of brilliant, straight up. Like, maybe I hesitated a bit with the beginning forty seconds, but if I’m being real with ya, it’s only ten seconds afterwards where I felt like every single one of us would recognize the sound of Electric85 finding the core groove of this cut, and diving straight in. The switch is a crucial one here – anything you might have had questions about or raised an eyebrow over instantly dissipates, and we’re left with insatiably wild, colorful, creative, and all-out irresistible hooks from the music to the microphone to carry us out of the Ocean Session & what could quite possibly be THE highlight moments of any song on this particular EP. I’m inclined to say that’s how it went down for me…once this last cut is fully filled in with everything that Electric85 wants to bring to it, it’s as cool as cool can be, and a track with personality that’s as addictive as it gets. They’ve still got plenty of room to grow, room to evolve, room to explore…which any band should have this early on into their career – but when you listen to how strong the finish to this EP is, Electric85 leaves us all with zero doubts about the talent they share between them, and their capability to go the distance with their impressively imaginative ideas & the vibes of their combined musicianship.
Find out more about Electric85 from their official website at: https://electric85.com
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