There is a fantastic quality to Gavin Russom’s work, an otherworldliness that is subtle yet palpable. It’s heard—or felt, more precisely—in all of his projects, including The Crystal Ark, Black Meteoric Star and his numerous recordings with Delia Gonzalez. All of Russom’s sonic astral projections, with their textures and atmospheric layers, demonstrate his astounding production skills and modular wizardry.
As DFA’s studio engineer, he was entrusted with the hefty task of maintaining the label’s analog stockade. Russom has built custom gear for the likes of James Murphy, Black Dice and Holy Ghost!; has remixed artists including Juan Maclean, Cut Copy and Caribou; and filled out the wonderful music of LCD Soundsystem. So it’s no wonder that Russom’s newest solo outing, Night Sky, reflects the talent and experience accrued in all those roles with both stunning precision and audible clarity. Add patience to the above list as well. “Night Sky” takes its time to grow, with Russom building anticipation one flickering, starry note at a time. The buzzy bottom end enters and expands before his vocals—alleyway dark and mysterious—make their way in. The song is nearly at the four-minute mark before all the elements, including the beat that marks the song’s pulse, are in place.
From there, “Night Sky” dips and dives, going from barebones synthesizers resting on organic percussion to explosive vocal choruses. The end reunites nearly every sound in an ecstatic ensemble of rhythms and noise. The Mutant Beat Dance Remix comes courtesy of Chicago’s Melvin Oliphant, a.k.a. DJ / producer Traxx (whose previous aliases have included ViLLan X, XX Art, Dirty Criminals, Mysterio and X2), the man behind the Nation record label. Here, the jakbeat innovator undoes the original and reforms it, maintaining the spookiness of Russom’s version. The new elements here—a thick bassline, shuffling beat, wiry electro etchings, eerie washes of synths that swell unexpectedly and unannounced—make for a unique and unpredictable collection of sounds.