Nosaj Thing - Parallels Album Review

Story posted September 13, 2017 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

Nosaj Thing, a Korean-American producer based out of Los Angeles, has always had an ear for spanning soundscapes and off the wall samples. His career has consisted of working with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi and Chance the Rapper to name a few. Through multiple EPs and three studio albums, Nosaj Thing has crafted a sound purposefully avant-garde, challenging typical tropes associated with the electronic music genre. Parallels, his most recent outing, marks his fourth studio album and brings in a much more somber tone that, at times, feels empty.

Parallels feels as though it’s laying down a canvas of synth patterns, but not going any further. Nosaj’s other works were populated with dense instrumentation and samples that made each track feel vibrant and alive. The first half of the album is a collection of synth patterns that act as a backdrop for something more, but never delivers and is left feeling empty. The first track “Nowhere” starts off with promise. The opening piano riff echoes like it was played in a cathedral and slides back and forth, left and right, bringing the listener deeper into the melody. The opening represents Nosaj’s skill of crafting dense instrumentation, bringing his listeners in with every pounding note. 

The next few songs feel very bare in comparison to Nosaj’s early work. Synths without much accompaniment or variation are what take up about three quarters of the album. These synth patterns lack a straightforward melody making each song drag out. The variation Nosaj exhibited on his past projects seems to be replaced by a more minimalistic approach, almost too minimalistic. The songs “Form,” “U G” and “Get Like” suffer from this. Very little sounds in these tracks go much beyond the synth chords and minimalist drums that accompany them. These tracks represent Parallels biggest pitfalls and seem like roadblocks to better songs. “IGYC” and “TM” bring brighter chords into the mix and put together a cleaner, more diverse arrangement of synths and samples. While these tracks do fare better than some of the worst tracks on the album, they don’t do much to bring anymore color to the album and feel almost as empty.

Nosaj Thing can create a vast and immersive experience when listening to his solo outings, though his work with vocal artists is arguably where his skill as a producer shines the most. There are three features on Parallels and each help compliment the tone shift from his previous outings. These tracks serve as the best songs on the album. Each downfall the rest of the tracks suffer from stems from a lack of something more. When Nosaj Thing pairs with these artists, the resulting atmosphere from the combination of his low, drowned out synths and their vocal talent is stunning. Zuri Marley gives an ethereal performance on “Way We Were,” accompanied by a crisp synth pattern that drives forward every lyric. Steve Spacek and Kazu Makino’s performance on “All Points Back to You” and “How We Do” offer a nice addition to the lower tone synths of the album.

Overall, Parallels left a lot to the imagination. A good portion of the album is bogged down by heavy reliance on the synth chords that underlie each track. Most of these songs leave a lot of open space for more instrumental exploration, but choose to stay at home. The album as a whole suffers from its inconsistent quality, lack of depth in a good majority of the tracks and the lack of flow between songs. Parallels feels disjointed and moves away from Nosaj Thing’s brighter, deeper and more thematically woven outings. 

Rating: 6/10    

 

Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu