I just saw Brasstracks perform with Alexander Lewis last night, so perhaps I’m still in a mood, but believe me when I say that I absolutely adore brass. You put a trumpet, saxophone, or trombone in a track and I’m smitten. So when I first listened to “The Beginning” from Louis Futon’s debut album Way Back When earlier this week, and that warm brass came through my speakers, I got chills. And I was hooked.
Louis Futon has made a name for himself as a musician’s musician, posting videos on Facebook, Beat Challenges, of him and collaborator friends creating tracks from scratch or crafting innovative covers of songs. But this album truly shows his skill as a producer and artist, and it’s done in a lot of very subtle ways.
Now, the first thing that needs to be said is that this is a crossover album. Elements of electronic production are present throughout the entire project, but it’s nowhere near anything you’d classify as house, dubstep, trance, or anything other popular electronic genre. This is like singer/songwriter music for EDM and it’s probably the best example of the blend that I’ve heard since San Holo’s album1 last year — at the risk of angering the bitbird mob, I’d even say I like this a lot more. (But that boils down to personal preference.)
The use of natural instruments like guitar, piano, horns, strings, and percussion is also immediately apparent. The sounds don’t come across as processed as they would coming from a sample pack; you can tell that Louis more than likely recorded a lot of these sounds himself, much in the way that he does in his aforementioned Facebook videos. The drum rolls are crisp, the brass notes are lush and warm, the strings are fervent and emotional. It’s the sort of immeasurable quality that can’t be explained, it can’t only be experienced, hence my own vagueness.
In that sense, Louis Futon has created, in my opinion, a masterclass in production and instrumental recording.
All this, and I still haven’t once mentioned the incredible artists who help make this album what it is. On the majority of tracks, Louis is accompanied by a talented vocalist who layers their own voice on top of the production for an album that finally crosses over from “these beats are cool” to “wow, these songs are amazing.”
Beginning with RKCB on “Surreal,” a litany of talents amplify the experience to become the masterpiece that it is. Armani White, who’s also worked with Alexander Lewis and Too Many Zooz, joins Ashe, who’s worked with Louis The Child and Bearson, on “Rewind,” one of the album’s highlights. You can also find features from Duckwrth and Baegod on “Supposed To Be,” and BXRBER features on both “All My Life” and the album-closing “Fall On Me,” which sounds like Louis’ take on “Heaven Only Knows,” the epic Towkio, Chance the Rapper, and Lido collaboration.
And we can’t forget two of the album’s strongest tracks, “Restless Sea” with Opia and “Bad Habits” with NoMBe. Coming as the eighth and ninth tracks on a fourteen-track album, they sort of serve as the epic climax of the whole record; though, that’s not to say that the surrounding tracks aren’t any worse.
If there’s any record you listen to today, make it Louis Futon’s debut album Way Back When. It’s a phenomenal piece of art and hopefully, like me, it’ll end up in your top albums at the end of the year. Listen below.
Louis Futon is playing April 26 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and April 27 at The Independent in San Francisco. Check with the venues for tickets.
Photographer: Matt Kanzler