Breadth of emotion is tough for any musician trying to construct a release, especially when confined to a five track EP. For many musicians, it is easiest to cough up something monotonous, either an album that is wholly sad, dancy, or whatever. But if anyone can workaround this pitfall, it’s Alberta native Branton Olfert — AKA Chelsea Grimm — with his new instrumental electronic release: Busshead.
With only three prior singles on Soundcloud and a live debut in August 2015, Chelsea Grimm is about as fresh on the Vancouver music scene as anyone can be. Forgiving ears are entirely unnecessary for this polished release, as Olfert already seems a seasoned veteran.
The album begins with “From Above,” an initially steady melody with plucky, Nicolas Jaar-esque synthesizers and an aggressive, 2-step-garage hihat that punctuates the introduction — giving the listener the delightful indication of an incoming dancefloor swell. The initial riff, disintegrating into the background, is then overtaken and carried along by a spacious and off-kilter woody percussion reminiscent of Burial’s seminal record Untrue. This moment is underscored by a viscous bassline that will make any sub owner rejoice in their investment.
The next track, “Beillustrious,” seems to mirror the thematic versatility of the album, as it flipflops from delicate ambience and shimmering arpeggiated synths to a gritty yet subdued industrial house beat (that calls to mind James Blake’s “Voyeur”).
The final two songs on the album provide a unique edge to Busshead in that they incorporate and emphasize the use of electric guitar and jazz-sourced drum breaks. Not only do these elements broaden the emotional breadth of the album, but they also serve to add a human component to it. In comparison to the start of the EP, the second half of this release challenges the listener and demands further consideration. And it is this call for consideration that allows Busshead to stand out amongst itspeers. Neither a UK-garage-inspired dance project nor an overly abstract release, this album is something born in the middle. The deliberate ambiguity of this record etches out a new process of feeling for the listener. We are faced with a piece of art that makes us want to move as much as it makes us want to sit still. And in determining how to consume Busshead, we learn that it may just be possible to do both of these things, to feel more than just unvarying elation or monotonous sadness.