by: Luxury Noise
Written By: Soft Replica
Published: September 6, 2023
Album released: August 11, 2023
Chopped drum breaks.
Pads thick as molasses.
Intricate production flourishes.
Vocal vignettes blurring the line between human and synthetic.
Ubiquitous samples that are timelessly musical (loon and shakuhachi lovers rejoice).
Now that you understand how Denver producer Luxury Noise’s debut full-length Forgive Yourself sounds, I would ask how you imagine the album feels. If your answer is “a contemplative journey exploring both the darkness and euphoria of self-healing”, I would be surprised. And then I’d ask if you’d already heard the record.
One of the most compelling aspects of Forgive Yourself is the contradiction between the vibrancy of the sonic palette it uses, and the hazy landscape it conjures. Like a carnival covered in fog, Luxury Noise continually indulges the senses with downright impressive production chops, sparkling melodies, and sweeping soundscapes. Yet, despite the spectacle, he never offers the cheap satisfaction of revealing exactly where you are. While the multi-faceted blend of house rhythms, IDM dazzle, and vaporbreak warmth is what will draw many listeners in, what will keep listeners coming back is surely Luxury Noise’s ability to explore a range of emotional arcs.
“Big Maybes” opens the record, and stands as one of the strongest tracks. Scenically wide pads, sustained cathartic vocals, and expertly manipulated drum breaks combine to form what is the most euphoric five minutes of the album.
Directly after, “Onmymind” gradually builds into a cavernous club soundscape no less impressive than the opener, but distinctly more groovy and fog-enshrouded. The titular vocal sample and an intoxicatingly simple saxophone lick take turns coloring the space atop a stout acid bassline. Once again, Luxury Noise’s keen sense of musical direction and sound production is on full display, and the album begins with unwavering confidence.
Afterward, things wind down into a suite of more contemplative and understated mood pieces that nonetheless offer compelling variety. “Kori” at last pushes the throbbing basslines and IDM-influenced drum samples to the forefront, while “Devotional” comes to a crawl with the most gorgeously melancholic atmosphere yet. “Variable Midlives” shows the return of subtle yet perfectly placed woodwind drones, followed by a downtempo movement so sedative that it could put you under if not for the level of glitchy intricacy within the song’s whitespaces.
The album then reaches peak warmth with track 8, “slowbliss”. The elaborate microrhythms and granular sample slices, now all but expected, are momentarily cast aside to make way for a digital wall of sound, fit for the song’s title. During this piece especially, one must appreciate how much texture and depth Luxury Noise fits into the mix without sacrificing clarity. The record is misty and introspective by design, but the haze that it casts is by no means colorless or ill-defined.
As the album arrives at its closing passages, both “Goodbyes” and “Threads” further lay out open spaces to reflect, despite the crisp details hidden under the surface. The title track, and fittingly the final one, then kicks us back to uptempo territory. Yet, even with the gear shift, the piece still feels firmly stuck just beneath the ever-present gloom, not quite reaching the highs of the opening song.
While the three closing tracks admittedly leave some climatic closure to be desired, they are preceded by “Esther”, an unmistakable high point. It’s also the song that most embodies the colorful-yet-opaque, frenetic-yet-anesthetic dichotomies at the core of Forgive Yourself. Despite the high BPM –one of the highest on the record in fact– it contradictorily carries an almost leisurely aura, like an explosion seemingly captured in slow motion. That is, until the second half when the beat plunges into half time and you realize you truly are in slow motion. All the while, Luxury Noise’s arsenal is on full display: glistening melodies glide above snippets of evocative vocals, a striking array of rhythmic layers, and ear candy fit for an hour of repeat listens.
It takes only a minute’s runtime to understand that Luxury Noise is no stranger to both the technical and emotional sides of music. Following 2022’s Second Light as well as The Light at a Certain Hour –two stellar EPs in their own rights– Forgive Yourself at last presents Luxury Noise the chance to pull out all the stops and make a complete artistic statement in the way that only an LP can offer. And an artistic statement it is, indeed. The album is not only introspective in theme, but also seems to show a self-reflection on the artist’s long and varied career itself, letting all past explorations culminate into a cohesive whole. As beautiful as the “what was” may be for many of us, Forgive Yourself delivers a compelling reminder to appreciate and enjoy the “what is”.
Favorite Tracks: Big Maybes, Esther, slowbliss