Austin-based producer and minimalist composer Roger Sellers has a knack for balance. While concurrently building bigger and bigger sounds in his second studio album under the moniker Bayonne, he still manages to maintain a sense of intimacy between the listener and their own listening experience. Sellers is a gifted musician and composer, no doubt, but what’s more magnificent is the way he understands how a listener reacts to a piece of music, and successfully unites sound and feeling.
The nearly 6-minute long opener ‘QA’ layers vocal sample upon sample, looping cleverly hazy drumbeats and picky guitar melodies. It’s a clever opener that rips apart the seams of human emotion, haphazardly sewn back together after disappointments, heartbreak and hurt, and allows its listener to feel, just for a moment, completely blank. The lyrics are minimal, as the sort of lo-fi, ambient tones of Sellers work dictate, but that doesn’t affect their poignancy; “Wait for me / I can’t seem to make it”.
The turn Sellers takes next is slightly unexpected; employing bouncy, jungle-inspired electronics to kickstart the title track ‘Drastic Measures’. You’d half imagine those first 30 seconds to appear on a trailer for a darkly humorous kids’ film, that is until janky pianos break the tension and open up the song to something a little more light-hearted. It’s a trick that’s popping up more and more in Sellers’ work, those ever-creeping classic pop sensibilities, that have also seeped into his lyricism, the way he loops sounds and overdubs his vocals. Listen twice to ‘I Know’ and you’ll hear it – that slightly travel vlog-style of twinkly backing keys partnered with breathy, repetitive vocal cuts and a melody that swims.
Drastic Measures is orchestral in its textures – it’s an album that really is a joy to sit and pick apart – and every single element plays its part in making up a kaleidoscope of tone and colour. None more so than ‘Gift’ is it on display; we start simply with the piano, adding subtle, warm synthesisers, keyboard melodies, then the drums kick in. It’s a steady build-up of multi-instrumentalists that perform in perfect synergy. And the result? A track that fits together like the most satisfying jigsaw puzzle; whose segments glide across and around each other like a well-engineered production line.
Although the album’s title takes its name from the instability inherent in the life of an artist, there’s nothing too drastic about Drastic Measures. Sellers’ ability to deepen soundscapes and weave samples in the most hard-to-reach places gives a richness to its sound that never makes it feel urgent. More than anything, it feels well placed on a long train journey, bobbing in and out of different landscapes and waving past worlds as they fly by in the window.
An ending is much like a beginning; in life and in Sellers’ sonic concept. A deliberate haze, like a sepia tone photo filter, sits over the lead vocals of ‘Bothering’ to complete the record as one, thick-lined circle. It closes an album that is, frankly, charming. Its themes are strong, its production crystalline, and its sense of togetherness with so many moving parts assures you that, despite how much crap you’ve going on right at this moment, there’s an album to help you forget about all of it.
Drastic Measures is out now on City Slang.