[Album Review] Teen Daze- Themes for a New Earth
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Release Date: November 10th, 2017
Label: FLORA
Shifting away from his trademark indie dream pop sound, Teen Daze (Jamison Isaak) ditches the vocals and embraces the classic markers and pioneers of ambient music on his eleventh release, Themes for a New Earth. Framed as a counterpart or sister album to Themes for Dying Earth, released earlier this year, New Earth approaches its themes “with a certain optimism,” according to the Abbotsford, British Columbia musician. Similar to the most effective ambient works, this new release from Isaak creates a wonderful sense of space, and an environment unto itself for the listener to maneuver and discover the finer details.

Found not only in the two albums’ contrasting titles, New Earth also sounds like a second chance or a rebirth. Isaak works with a relatively familiar sonic palette, mostly comprising of synth pads, piano and guitar, to conjure up tranquil images of sunlight filling in through trees, expansive green fields and the calmest of rainy days. Take the particularly lush “River Walk,” suggesting a cool, autumnal morning with the gentle shimmers of guitar delay and subtle reversed loops as steam fog, weightless and hypnotic, rolling along the bank. This track, along with “An Alpine Forest” and “Prophets,” are heavily reminiscent of Eno’s Apollo, with their ethereal pads and slow decays emphasizing the lucid dream images of their suggestive titles.

New Earth fails to sustain this dreamlike state as Isaak falls short in the album’s pacing with more straightforward, beat-driven tracks, “Kilika” and “Wandering Through Kunsthal.” Where “River Walk” feels endless, “Kunsthal” seems tedious. In trying to create momentum, the repetitive kick and hi-hats are stuck in a single bar pattern, holding back the light atmospheric whooshes and breezy guitars from guiding the listener along.

Within seven years, Jamison Isaak’s Teen Daze project has strayed far from its “chillwave” origins to a constantly maturing and evolving centerpiece for explorations in electronic and ambient sounds. On Themes for a New Earth, Isaak soundtracks the lighter half of a planet’s life cycle, establishing a musical language for themes of growth and renewal, and encapsulating nature’s ability to both calm and passionately inspire.