Restored 20 June 2017, originally published 26 May 2014
I’ve been listening to this artist called Esbe for the past couple of weeks, and I can’t stop.
This dude produces large quantities of amazing music, specifically trip-hop, abstract hip-hop, electronic music. That’s a bold statement, I know, but this is no exaggeration. After listening to five albums from this guy, I feel completely comfortable saying each of them is special.
I started with Esbe’s LP Late Night Headphones (Volume 3). This album starts incredibly strong. The first track “Sing” dives deep into my brain. It starts off with a lovely piano with electronic effects. Then he brings in an attention-grabbing sample that announces “BOYS AND GIRLS, BOYS AND GIRLS” like at a circus. I was taken aback the first time I heard it because I had my headphones on (like the title suggests) and turned up loud, and it was surprisingly intense. But not in a bad way. It ripped me away from everything else I was doing so I could focus on the song alone. The rest of the track has beautiful samples featuring a choir humming low notes and children singing. Esbe also weaves in a hefty amount of electronically generated or manipulated sounds. For example, around 12 seconds in, you can hear a regular piano striking a note, and then the note is played in reverse to be used as added effect. The seamless joining of the organic and synthetic really enhances the track. That statement applies equally to the rest of Esbe’s music as well.
As for other albums, a stand-out from Late Night Headphones (Volume 1) is “Pixel Wave”. This track appeals to the bass-o-phile in me. The slow, heavy thumping is contrasted by light finger snapping and highly-digitized, 8-bit chaos. It’s almost too assertive at points, but that’s part of what I enjoy about it.
From Volume 2, there is “Rotten Heart” which is great for a number of reasons. It starts off with a ukulele, which is fresh. The ukulele is followed by a classical/Spanish guitar and a sonorous trumpet. These instruments evoke a feeling of being in the old West with outlaws and ruffians. Later, you’ll find your eardrums vibrating to the exceptionally deep bass, like depth charges for the brain.
From his Sweet & Sour collections (of which there are 3 double LPs), there is a plethora of high quality tracks. For example, the 3rd collection contains excellent tracks like “Cosmic Dream”, “Heartbeat (Pt. 2)”, and “Lo-Fi Interlude”. I haven’t even heard the 1st and 2nd collections yet, but I’m downloading them as I type this up.
I’m aware this is a lot to chew on, but I hope you won’t be turned off simply by the sheer volume of music. Think of it like a buffet of all your favorite foods, a buffet you can carry around with you. It’s definitely a lot, but you have virtually unlimited opportunity to feast at your pace.
The highest praise I can think to give an artist is actually to pay for the music (which I did). Despite the fact that it’s available free of charge, I believe Esbe deserves the support.
Esbe – “Sing”
Esbe – “Pixel Wave”
Esbe – “Nightmare”