Photay Delivers Soundtrack to Summer With Sophomore Album "Waking Hours" [REVIEW]
Updated: Feb 27
The long awaited, second full-length album from NY-based producer Photay is officially out today on the Brooklyn imprint Mexican Summer.
The start of a new decade means the emergence of projects from both new faces in the electronic foreground as well as those who have already established their own sonic paths. Although Waking Hours is only Evan Shornstein's second record as Photay, he has already taken his music off the course to create something quite indescribable.
Based in New York, Shornstein's musical roots travel as far as West Africa where he learned polyrhythmic percussion techniques on a trip, which are now implemented in his work. His standout abilities as a drummer are heard through his discography as most tracks feel structured around an attentive groove that drives the rest of the production. His 2017 debut album Onism created a strong foundation for the producer in terms of developing his signature sound: warm, analog synths blended with prevalent drum work in a mainly four-by-four structure. Photay's work always feels ready to create movement on dance floors, yet has an enigmatic quality that goes further - something much deeper to all this. This trait surely does not lack in Waking Hours.
Shornstein's new record finds a home on Mexican Summer, a Brooklyn-based label known to push experimentation in the indie electronic realm. Though hard to label as a certain genre, Waking Hours is a must-listen, from start to finish, to be able to describe its peculiar mood.
As difficult as this year has been for many, the consistency of new music to look forward to each month has kept creativity flowing for avid enthusiasts. Shornstein's highly anticipated sophomore album was first announced over two months ago with the single "Warmth in the Coldest Acre." After listening to the record in its entirety, it is clear why this track was selected as the premiere: it introduces nearly all the main components of Waking Hours condensed into a beautifully progressive track. These not only consist of Photay's familiar attributes, but introduce musical elements newer to his personal style such as bubbly synths, an uplifting ambiance, and even processed vocals that are almost played like an instrument. The song is drenched in a coat of summer aura and posed a great welcoming to the direction he has taken with this album.
The final single released from the album came just two weeks ago with "Is It Right?" and introduces more layers to the record's idea.
This well-made lyric video expresses much of what Shornstein is attempting to create with this record. Both in this video and with most of his progression throughout the album, it seems like he tends to fill an empty room with colorful objects until it is at capacity. The peaks of this track amid many others feel like the room overflows with complex movement throughout the soundscape. This track is also the starting point in the album of his own vocal work, which is something he has evolved to use more frequent than Onism. Add features like an instrumentalist playing the Kora along with a group for vocal harmonies and you get one of Photay's best overall tracks yet. In a sudden shift, the song ends with eerie tones that set for a mysterious transition to the rest of the album.
The record seamlessly connects each song to ideas found in the first few minutes, all while building on different elements individually. Tracks like "Fanfare for 7.83 Hz" continue to showcase Shornstein's marvelous ways of using progression and "Rhythm Research" blends all that he has mastered, from unforgettable low-end rhythm to groovy vocals complementing the production.
Waking Hours is out today on all streaming services and can be also purchased on Bandcamp digitally or in CD/vinyl format. All proceeds made through digital sales in the first two weeks will go to Equality For Flatbush, a POC-led organization focusing on anti-police repression, affordable housing, and anti-gentrification work in Flatbush and across Brooklyn, NY. Mexican Summer will also match these donations up to $1000.
After only two records, it is simply inspiring to see Photay become a renowned creator in modern electronic music. The beginning of summer has a wonderfully new ring to it.