The composer-professor’s latest is forward-thinking, skilfully produced and great fun
It’s a good sign of versatility when a producer can veer from cerebral pads and microhouse to techno-infused bangers with the greatest of ease. Enter CalArts music technology professor, half of Wajatta and solo composer John Tejada, who has been on a roll for so many years now, and his suitably impressive new album Sleepwalker.
Shattered opens with a hard, pumping beat and acidic drones, fading in insidiously as various sound effects bounce around the arrangement. Indeed, those sound effects permeate multiple tracks and give the sound design that bit of extra intrigue, whether it be scissors snipping on Over The Wires or the ominous sharpening of a knife on Whip Hand. Inspired by Herbert and Dani Siciliano’s seminal record Around The House? Perhaps, but there’s plenty to mark the album out as uniquely Tejada’s creation.
Dub plays a role at various points, particularly on Skull Music when the beat drops to half speed and the empty space is filled with chunky bass and echoing stabs. Some more rhythmic intensity is provided by burbling synths, while filtered chords mesh with the bass’ lo-fi sheen to create a truly lush high-end. Elsewhere the percussive hits on When We Dead Awaken are enjoyably wonky, and compliment the minimal backbeat very well.
When compared to 2021’s tangentially covid-related record Year Of The Living Dead, Sleepwalker is not so much an excursion into one style, more a magpie-like approach to genre. As a result it’s less clinical, more loose, a prime example being Isolation where a chopped-up breakbeat dances across the track, supplemented by various clicks and cuts. As the breakbeat fades away leaving a warm hum of ambient notes as a coda, the listener is reminded that Tejada is aligned with club culture but not beholden to it.
Sleepwalker is forward-thinking, skilfully produced and above all great fun, recommended for all avid electronic music fans.