Canopy Makes Extraordinary Full-Length Debut With New Album "Refraction" [REVIEW]
The UK-based artist extends his production capabilities to deliver a foundational release for his project - one that slightly draws more influence from the present than his past.
Let us return to the mid-2010s for the sake of this article - a setting that brewed many fundamental changes to internet-spawned music.
By this point, SoundCloud was holding its ground as the ideal platform for pushing newer electronic subcultures further off the grid. The various collectives healthily (or not) challenging each other, the sea of avid listeners creating web traffic, the random youngsters producing anthems out of their bedrooms - it was an ecosystem that would eventually motivate many of us to find a niche patch of grass in the field and grow it. For some, that starting point came with glitch music and what would eventually become neuro hop. Having been around when Caliber Music's Let's Call It Neurohop Vol. One made its debut, the movement took inspiration from neurofunk drum 'n' bass fused with trip-hop elements, except more high-tech. I watched the subgenre transform into a medium that rewarded the most innovative beatmakers - then came UK-based artist Tim Utting and his Canopy project.
I originally discovered Utting's work in late 2014 when his track Transcend was making rounds among the neuro-sphere; its attention to detail really caught my ears. Over six years later, he returns onto our radar with Refraction, his first full-length album as Canopy and one that has been widely anticipated for a while. Moving onward to 2021 from what now seems like an ancient subculture of electronic music, his project's transition to the current is seamless.
We were given some time to dissect the album ahead of its release and would like to thank Sam from Upscale for reaching out to have us review it.
Overall, Refraction stays true to the Canopy name but history lesson aside, the album appears like it slightly draws more influence from the present than his past. This is exciting for both avid listeners who moved through sound at a close pace to him, as well as newcomers searching for something new to connect with. It is also vital for the future of Utting's beloved alias as the blend of old and new showcases his development over the years. Naturally, it is hard to ignore inspirations derived from some of the most forward-thinking artists in the current state of electronic music - the bright, thought-provoking synth work of Max Cooper, the song progression and attentive rhythms of Jon Hopkins, and as expected, a nod to the kings of dancing Reese basses: KOAN Sound.
The first "past meets present" moment is heard in the beginning of the album with Caustics. Transitioning from an ambient intro, the track effortlessly introduces drums and feels like a "rolling start" to the rest with no immediate drop or high point. It then enters a barrage of heavy bass weight, making it clear that Canopy's established sound lives on - a familiar neuro/glitch hop tempo and structure accompany that.
The album then advances to a pair of four-by-four tracks, which caught me off guard but the new direction surely paid off - Red Shift in particular quickly became my favorite cut. The beginning feels spacious as gated white noise twirls around the stereo and emotive synths pluck their way into the equation. Utting's songwriting abilities are displayed here as the song masterfully progresses throughout. It finally ends by evolving into a more dubstep aesthetic without losing all the reverberated pads and synth work.
After another couple of authentic neuro-based tracks, the "short but sweet" record comes to its end with the title track Incandescent. Defined as "emitting light as a result of being heated," the final statement of this album is simple: beauty and chaos can be playfully mixed together. The subtle vocals add a layer of sentiment, serving as the perfect outro to this record. As it comes to its full stop, the final minute seems like a bonus bit that poses a glimmer of hope for the future of Canopy - something to make the listener crave more.
The album found its home on Colorado-based netlabel Upscale Recordings and I truly could not think of a better platform to break barriers on the resides in the middle ground between core electronic influences from the past and envelope-pushing bass music. The collective continues their tirade of exporting memorable full-length records from their main roster.
Refraction can be best described as a transparent album. Of course, I wish it were longer but it feels calculated and genuine from start to finish - it is concise and gets straight to the point. Thematically, Utting hones his previous skillset and takes on what drive him in today's modern world. The byproduct is an emotional journey through a blend of warm ambiance and aggression. He took a leap doing something entirely different within his alias for the payout of longevity and replay value; the risk certainly worked out.
Refraction is out now on all major platforms; the release can also be supported directly on Bandcamp through the widget below.
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