San Francisco – Relative newcomers Young Ejecta have returned with a new EP—or “mini-album” as they choose to call it—entitled The Planet. The electronic duo consists of Joel Ford (of Ford & Lopatin fame) and Neon Indian’s female vocalist Leanne Macomber.
Back in the late fall of 2013, the duo released their first full-length LP Dominae (under their former moniker Ejecta—they elected to change their name due to a legal claim put forth by a DJ known as ‘Ejeca,’ who claimed their name was too close to his own). The album was a critical success that added their name to the ever-growing list of experimental electronic acts that seems to grow longer and longer with each passing day. Dominae is an album steeped in marshy sincerity, matching slow, glistening beats with tacitly lush vocals that glide along like a dinghy on a still lake. While Dominae found its strengths in its placidity, the new release explores more expansive horizons, dipping into brighter synths, swifter tempos, and an overall lighter mentality.
This is especially evident in the album’s opening track “Into Your Heart,” which starts with a simple array of synthesized strings but blooms into an infectious combination of pulsing clicks and buoyant synths that work perfectly as the foundation underneath Macomber’s dreamy vocals. This track brings to mind the music of Röyksopp, as it is mixed in a way that puts the vocals front and center, while at the same time providing an electric, layered meadow of illustrious sound underneath that is subtle yet never seems understated.
Another track that shares that same trend is the semi-titular track “Your Planet,” as it starts out with a carefully textured layer of synths that is quickly built upon as the opening verse comes to a close. Cheeky syncopation kicks in for a second, and then is overtaken by fiery bursts of imaginative electro-tinged keystrokes. This track features far fewer vocals than the others, which gives Ford a little more time to shine, though in the beginning and the end when Macomber sings, it conjures up the same sort of sonic images brought forth by vocalists like Caroline Polachek (Chairlift) and Sarah Barthel (Phantogram).
The final track, “What You Done,” finds Ford toying with a more nostalgic brand of instrumentation, almost sounding like a makeshift soundtrack to a Nintendo game from the late 1980s, yet again he finds joy and success in relative simplicity. Unlike later NES games, his sound is far less saturated, allowing for Macomber’s vocals to float effortlessly over it, stopping to kiss the tide of music every so often so as to sync up for a few seconds before electing to tiptoe among her rather impressive register.
The middle three tracks—“Welcome to Love,” “All Day,” and “Recluse”—share a more evident pop mentality, though it is minimal pop. Macomber’s distant “la la
las” in the middle of “All Day” give off the same echoey detachment as Laurie Anderson, and there is never a moment in which she feels ungrounded. “Recluse” is very reliant on the timing of things, as is evident in the thumping presence of the strutting beat and twinkly interjections of other digital instruments, but here again, the vocals seem to shine brightest, like a planet in the night sky that gets mistaken for a star.
When I first heard Young Ejecta (back when they were just Ejecta), I found myself more drawn to the instrumentation of their music, rather than the vocals. With this EP/mini-album/whatever you want to call it, the opposite is true. Dominae seems to be more low-key, than this new album, and The Planet is far more exciting than their 2013 debut. Leanne Macomber is embracing her role as a main vocalist, and Joel Ford seems to be happy to be out from under the shadow of Daniel Lopatin, a notorious perfectionist. The Planet is trippy, a little beepy, and wonderful. It’s the kind of music Crystal Castles would probably perform if they had smoked a bunch of weed or something. And while I miss the simpler name ‘Ejecta,’ I see a purpose in their rebranding. If you’re going to create something new, why not become new yourself?