Generally speaking, genre lines are hints and nodes of flavors that mix well with some and not so much with others. Transcending the lines history defines as dogmatic is certainly ambitious, but Rostam’s release in Half-Light surpasses ambition for a natural medium of instinct, culture, and disposition. Where aspiring endeavors oftentimes flutter in the face of significance, Rostam brings grounded focus to genre-bending ventures. And rather than throwing anything and everything into a conglomerated leap of faith, Half-Light magnifies a sound that is very “Rostam” from beginning to end.
As a founding member of Vampire Weekend and Discovery, it’s no secret that Rostam Batmanglij knows a thing or two about the sounds of the world (perhaps everything?). And with a producing resume that spans from R&B heavyweights like Solange and Frank Ocean to the pop icons of Haim and Charli XCX, Rostam’s rolodex grows deeper still on top of the bedrock production credits for every Vampire Weekend release to-date. Add the seasoned veteran producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Adele, Brandon Flowers, and Madonna) on a handful of tracks, and eclectic suddenly starts humming a different tune, especially if you thought Vampire Weekend were eclectic (granted, they very much are, and for good reason…).
But what sets Half-Light apart from his previous releases and other ambitious attempts at wide-ranging sounds is it’s holistic core. It’s certainly no fools errand to throw in an Indian folk song, Reggae tune, or electro-specific number to create a varied blend of sound (even though Rostam does exactly that), however filling in the empty space is something else entirely. What stands out on Half-Light as the “blended sound” is Rostam’s ability to incorporate all of his experience and knowledge on each song as if his all-inclusive view never gets out of focus. Rather than a blurred mess of mixed genres or sounds intertwining and going in every which direction, Rostam takes a wide-view angle of worldly genres and adds bits and pieces to a very defined foundation. For example, “Rudy” is a very focused Reggae-ish number, and he intertwines electronically modified lyrics and layers in the vein of a vamp. On “EOS”, Rostam builds chant-like vocals and synths on top of a soulful piano ballad that rises and falls with orchestral strings. And on “Bike Dream” he adds fuzz synths to compliment a tried and true pop testimonial in driving percussion and melodic bass. As the sentimental salute to his previous band and its city of origin, “Bike Dream” sits comfortably as both the radio-friendly song and missing link to brings Half-Light full circle as both a universal and unashamed release.
Erase the genre guidelines and definitions that pigeonhole sound. There is no snug slot to compartmentalize Half-Light, other than a genre-bending release by a proven artist that exemplifies a track record of quality in the ability to master countless genres. Rostam created a release that displayed true culture, knowledge, and ability, and Half-Light stands as example to prove exactly that.