Los Angeles-based Jason Chung AKA Nosaj Thing’s fourth LP ‘Parallels’ signals a creative rebirth for the revered beatmaker. Following a self-proclaimed “identity crisis”, triggered after his gear was stolen while on tour, Chung took his time, unhurried in his approach to song craft, cultivating a record that manages to find a new sense of cordiality in collaboration, whilst retaining Nosaj Thing’s sense of abstract exploration.
His past work under the Nosaj Thing moniker — pre-dating ‘Parallels’ — explored amorphous left-field, house and glitch-hop soundscapes, his eye and attention to every minuscule detail the reason he is so valued in the LA music scene. Having produced for the likes of Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, Chung has been able to fuse together the directness of hip-hop’s breakbeats with austere production that leans more towards ambient and ethereal atmospherics.
On ‘Parallels’ Chung channels whatever turmoil and angst he encountered from his time away into a distilled melancholia that subtly ebbs and flows. Alternate dimensions and planes unbeknownst to the fickle human mind is where Chung takes us. Take ‘UG’ and ‘Form’ — arpeggios, faint piano patterns and a cavernous array sampled voices fleshing out Chung’s sense of detachment from reality.
Voices appear in different forms on ‘Parallels’, and Chung refreshingly embraces the duality in collaboration, bringing him back from the isolation of his own soundscapes. On tracks like ‘Way We Were’ and ‘All Points Back To You’, Zuri Marley and UK electronica producer Steve Spacek, provide visceral emotion and simple sentimentality, capturing Chung’s sense of loss and longing, these tonal shifts bleeding into his production. Whether it be the brooding but gritty soul on the latter, or the frenzied synths and faint pop sheen of the former, these tracks have a playfulness that could have been tapped into more by Chung.
‘Parallels’ is a sinuous and subdued listen, a strong canvas that projects an alternate reality. Chung’s affinity for an abstractness means his offerings run the risk of getting lost in the ether, flashes of synth and whirrs aimlessly floating, not always hitting the mark. While this sonic nonchalance means it can lack singularity and impact, ‘Parallels’ feels like an organic and necessary evolution for Chung, his affinity for dense, hazy, dreamlike production still as mind-altering as ever.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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