Your EDM featured Tokyo artist Healing Spells in a New Artist Spotlight earlier this year with his debut EP, Sanskrit. Now less than three months later, Healing Spells will just released his sophomore EP, Sanctuary on June 15. This second album is a new twist on Healing Spells’s ambient, nature-driven style, with a lot more ambient sounds, a lot more nature and a looser, more experimental sound than Sanskrit.
Sanskrit caught the attention of Your EDM with the way its four tracks seemed to meld ambient dream pop like M83 with more experimental elements similar to Tangerine Dream while keeping a danceable beat. The EP also had a very strong spiritual message. Sanctuary is less definitively spiritual, with fewer Vedic-tinged vocals running the show. In there place is a lot of trippy synth combos with ambient music and nature sounds, such as in the EP’s third track, “Infinity Pond.” In this song, Healing Spells uses some interesting synth effects to simulate water or rain, while melodic synths mimic the sound of a panflute.
“Infinity Pond” is also probably the least danceable track on Sanctuary in terms of a definitive beat. Similarly “Disciples” and “Half Animal” have sort of half beats in that they almost form something EDM fans would recognize, such as a trap or a dubstep beat, but then the track changes directions and does something different or loses its beat altogether. This is, of course, done on purpose along with the rest of the experimental sound design on the EP. The effect is interesting as well in terms of how the listener experiences these tracks. They’re almost relaxing and soothing with both their beats and their synths, but then a change in the rhythm almost leaves one holding one’s breath, waiting for the beat to start up again and the song to find its way. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s up to the listener to find the rhythm within.
Sanctuary closes with the surprisingly very danceable title track. A snare-heavy minimal house track which has lots of ambient elements as well as several discernable melodies, something else the other tracks on the EP were lacking. If one listens closely, this closing track is actually made up of elements of the other three tracks, and seems to be a culmination, or maybe apotheosis of the EP. While “Sanctuary” will likely show up on dancefloors more than “Infinity Pond”, “Half Animal” and “Disciples”, it seems the artist wants the listener to go through the EP as a journey, eventually making sense of it all and coming to the musical and mental Sanctuary at the end. It’s meditative and calming, yet thought-provoking and not at all simple, just like any spiritual journey.
While Healing Spells’s Sanctuary doesn’t outwardly convey its spiritual message through vocals in the same way his debut Sanctuary did, it seems this second effort is more visceral somehow in the way it presents its message. With more experimentation, sound design and ambient sound, Healing Spells is able to get even deeper with his message than on his first effort, and it’s great to see him using these techniques and electronic music as a medium to call all music fans, EDM or not, to a higher musical purpose.