Album Review

“Forgive Yourself”

by: Luxury Noise

Written By: Soft Replica

Published: September 6, 2023

Album released: August 11, 2023


Chopped drum breaks.

Pads thick as molasses.

Sprawling instrumentation.

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.

      “Onmymind” artwork (single version)

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. 

Cassette release (via Pacific Plaza Records)

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

Soft Replica


Copy Editing By: Gbanas92


Album Review

Blissful Days

by: Days of Blue

Written By: Soft Replica

Published: July 8, 2022


Imagine you’re in a record store, aimlessly flipping through the crates. Through the sea of album covers, one in particular catches your eye: a nondescript, purple-tinged picture of a faceless figure in a hazy landscape. It seems like a real photo, but you’re not quite sure. You turn the record over to find that it’s named Blissful Days, and sports utopic track titles like “Morning Dew” and “Sun Kissed Skies.” Could the music possibly be as idyllic and tranquil as the presentation suggests?

days of blue – Days of Blue (2021)

The answer is a resounding yes, and it comes to us by way of California producer days of blue. Slushwave to its core, Blissful Days is the follow-up to their 2021 LP (titled Days of Blue, conveniently), an album which adopted a more cinematic ambient approach, and which, by the artist’s description, “began its conceptualization […] amidst the wildfires that ravaged my home-state.” Blissful Days also marks their first sampled work since the 2020 full-length 虚  (Imaginary). This time around, days of blue paints a decidedly more optimistic and comforting soundscape – a natural move when following such a somber release and electing to reintroduce samples to their toolkit. This brings me to the first major strength of the album: the sample choices themselves.

As is common for slushwave, days of blue pulls snippets from a handful of sources, stretching, rearranging, and looping them repeatedly until they produce a world that could only be their own. While the origins may vary, they’re tied together by a few common threads: rich, emotionally-potent chord progressions and transcendent vocal melodies. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the second track, the 16-minute tour de slush that is “Morning Dew.”

Following the sprawling ambient opener “Dawn,” “Morning Dew” begins similarly sparse and nebulous. The introductory drone grows gradually, lulling you into a sense of ease until suddenly evaporating into harmonic bliss sprinkled with percussion. The transition is especially bold and unexpected after the free-form ambiance that comprises the record up to this point. As the song evolves and weaves between different movements, the 16-minute runtime begins to seem minuscule; the piece is so hypnotic that it could be extended into an album of its own. Thankfully however, there’s five tracks to go, and what comes next is another definite highlight.

“Blue Hue” starts as one may now expect: a slow, filtered fade-in, but the drop at 3 minutes yields yet another surprise – not only does this album have bass, but it’s groovy as hell. It’s here that days of blue solidifies their keen sense of pace, progressing from the amorphous opener, to the understated sway of “Morning Dew,” now arriving at a track you could slow dance to. It’s also during this piece that the vocal samples creep to the forefront, gliding atop the dense clouds beneath as if to serve as a guide in this surreal journey.

t e l e p a t h – 星間性交 (2015)

I could continue describing in detail the remaining four tracks in order, but in truth, the atmosphere this album conjures is somewhat beyond description and is best experienced firsthand. Instead, I would ask vaporwave fans  to recall the first time they listened to a slushwave album and truly resonated with it. The intrigue of feeling alien and yet uncannily familiar. The contradiction of yearning for days long gone while also alluding to a distant future. The hazy loops pulling you under until you lose track of time. For me, it was t e l e p a t h’s cosmic lullaby, the 2015 monolith 星間性交 (Interstellar Intercourse), an album which days of blue cites as an inspiration.

Blissful Days takes me back to the wonder and mystique of experiencing
星間性交 for the first time, while still feeling like a logical step forward for the style; the mix sounds vivid and full despite an ocean of reverb and phasers, the theme is self-evident, and the visual personality oozes from every corner; from the album art, to the Bandcamp page, to the artist’s entire social media identity. Blissful Days by days of blue looks and sounds exactly like you would expect given the name: an escape into a lush, serene daydream.

Above all else, one of my favorite features of this album is just how patient it is, clocking in at 55 minutes with a mere 7 songs. The buildups are long, but never without payoff. Complementary samples relay back and forth at length to trance-like effect, never overstaying their welcome. Despite the album’s subdued nature, it boasts a quiet confidence under the surface, asking the listener to commit their time and trust, and in return offers a gorgeous aural experience that begs for another listen after completion.

The only factor that prevents Blissful Days from being utterly flawless is the closing track, “Sunset Gradient.” While an ear-worm in its own right, the song carries an easygoing mid-album groove in place of an opportunity to drive the release toward a thematic conclusion, a role which may have been better suited for the aforementioned “Morning Dew” or the flight-inducing “Sun Kissed Skies.”

In a time increasingly focused on disjointed streams of bite-sized content, the best slushwave often forces us to instead slow down and stay put for a little. Blissful Days is a cathartic respite that delivers exactly what it promises in this regard, and is sure to capture the hearts of fans of the style. The artist describes the work as “a journey of a day, from morning to sunset,” and yet it manages to feel infinite during its best moments. Fitting, given the album’s Bandcamp description, a mere 6 words:

“Soar the skies, enter neverending bliss…”

Written By:

Soft Replica

Copy Editing By: Gbanas92