Soulacybin – ‘Alien, Baby’ Review

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Soulacybin, a.k.a. John LaBoone, prepared a description of the soul behind the process of writing his new Merkaba Music full-length release Alien, Baby, providing the listener with an opportunity to understand the emotion and worldview present throughout. So before you dive into the tracks, it is important to start here:

Alien, Baby is a response to complacency and stagnation. It’s a mentality that challenges the comfort zones and familiarity we cling to. It’s a way of life that encourages expansion into the unknown and novel. It’s a reminder that our whole lives are repeating patterns of growth in which unfamiliar becomes familiar, new experiences become the norm. It affirms that we are dynamic beings who thrive in the face of change and adversity and who wouldn’t be the perfectly imperfect iterations of ourselves that we are today without each and every uncomfortable or beautiful experience we’ve had. It’s the remembrance that we are forever moving forward on our paths with each breath we take, every moment bringing new challenges and rewards. We have the choice to embrace the unknown, play with the variables, dive into uncertainty, explore the perpetually unfolding mystery of this life, to more fully become Alien, Baby.

– John LaBoone

Alien, Baby came to fruition between September 2015 and June 2016, the the beginning of a period of time where LaBoone completely quit consuming marijuana. He felt like the immediate result of this change for him was a more detail-oriented writing process, producing more potent and concise pieces than ever before. Though every producer is different, they must constantly evaluate their creative process and the various factors that affect it.

I’ve spent the last few years of my life working to be honest with myself, accepting the shortcomings in my life and my personality, and putting in the personal work to be more aware of these habits and to make efforts to not succumb to them but instead make new decisions to live more fully and presently.  I’ve started showing up in my life and the life of those I love like I never have before, and the results are cultivating deeper relationships with loved ones, and living each day to the fullest and feeling rewarded by my growth beyond my comfort zone.

LaBoone also reflects upon the growth he felt as an artist while writing these tunes. That growth resulted in compositions featuring fewer layers of tonal information, tighter percussion, and an emphasis on drums and basses vs. melodies, harmonies, or chord changes. He refers to the style of synth bass processing he used prior to making Alien, Baby as both “wild” and “hairy,” and has since focused his bassline creation in his forthcoming releases on one or two evolving voices. LaBoone states, “I spent a lot of time refining my process of writing basslines using small instances of multiple synths to make up the entire bassline-something that yields a fairly abstract overall phrase, rather than one voice playing the bassline over a section.” There is a beauty in his realization of such improvements. Simplifying our process to produce the same quality of work often feels like a leveling up, allowing us to then focus more of our energy on improving other parts or adding new elements.

The title track on Alien, Baby sets an impressive tone with a Soulacybin hyperdub classic. Tasteful, clean squelches come at us, accompanied by a synth melody that compels as it swells. The echoing repetition of the octave swapping dub delays featured throughout the song dig deep into the listener’s mind. Arpeggiated basslines drop in and mix with manic high hats. It feels somewhat conventional at times, but such is the case with this production niche. Three minutes in, a delayed organ skank provides that half-time feel. Syncopation through polyrhythms always allows for that receptivity, where the crowd can move fast or slow. The tune masterfully rides the line between glitched-out and chill.

“Noctuous” also did me in during a car test up through the mountains. He kicks it off with a little techno-shaman diddy complete with delayed lines and a fantasy flute. Then a dark, fatty bassline cues the entrance of a final boss. This track hits hard AF and still maintains an airy vibe marked by high, repeating ascending and descending synths. At times, it sounds like someone is simultaneously watching a piano heavy cut scene from Final Fantasy X and speeding past the finish line on the hypest Sonic the Hedgehog level. “Somatics” burrows it’s way under our skin, at times enveloping us in sounds that hypnotize and twist our minds. With fractaled bass growls and solid breaks, it would be a huge hit amongst a Tipper & Friends crowd.

Soulacyabin’s intention over the past few years has been to curate the “Hyper Chill” sound. The evolution of that sound is at the core of the inspiration he felt while preparing these eight tracks. It is surprisingly both relaxing and motivating to listen to it as I write these words. I find this to be the trend in the music that I listen to, that balance is a sort of goldilocks zone. After a lengthy study of this newest album, I have a higher appreciation of LaBoone’s ability to tastefully incorporate dub reggae sounds throughout his productions. Even compared to other seminal Soulacybin releases like Stazi, Gratitude and Funkerpump, Alien, Baby emerges as his most accessible and dynamic.

Look out for a second 2017 Soulacybin release, scheduled via Street Ritual on 6/20. “It will feature all the new midtempo music I’ve written since my fall tour and during an emotional breakup culminating in September of 2016,” said LaBoone, “and will range from 95-102 bpm and focus more on a fun and funky vibe that hits the dancefloor harder, while still being psychedelic and alien.”

Summer 2017 festival season for Soulaycbin includes sets at Fractalfest, Pirate Party, Sonic Bloom and Konnexion, where he will be performing as his progressive psytrance project, Ghost Root.

Purchase Soulacybin’s Alien, Baby HERE

Alien, Baby on Merkaba Music

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