2013 was a year of grandeur. Across genres, artists and musicians pulled out all the cacophonous samples, snares, and bass they could get their hands on. 2014 has taken note of this and gone in the opposite direction: minimalist, light, atmospheric. Arbutus’ new release, Bedroom Safari, makes use of the barebones bedroom, jazzy synth aesthetic, but doesn’t make any great leaps to extend the genre. All the necessary elements are there, but as a whole the album sits comfortably on genre strengths without a secure establishment of originality. It’s well-executed, but forgettable.
The name Bedroom Safari lends itself easily to this project, combining aesthetics of intimate bedroom spacing with the expansive rumblings of the jungle. The echoing quality of the harmonies through the beginning of the album creates a sonic environment that is at once small and big, without lyrics or clear transitions. In fact, the entire album is devoid of the human voice, except for the closing track “Free Radicals,” which incorporates a choral drone.
The strength of this project comes from its cohesion — the various tonal layers of synths, drums, and strings complement each other and create a consistent ambiance while still stretching into higher energy tracks like “Tree Well” and “Canadian Synesthesia.” Length is also an asset on this album. No song exceeds four-and-a-half minutes, but that’s just as well; with such a honed sense of sound, there is not an overwhelming degree of variety, meaning that some songs lag towards the end. Not a bad album overall, Bedroom Safari is a summer project that transitions nicely into a rainier season.