Long time Mono/Poly followers will yet again be left scratching their heads after their first listen to his long awaited Brainfeeder debut, Golden Skies. Mono/Poly, AKA Charles Dickerson, has for some time now been the IDM frontrunner of the LA underground beats scene. And like any true frontrunner he has once again stylistically jettisoned the noises he was previously making, beginning with his first self-released full-length, 2010’s Paramatma – a robotic dubstep epic swathed in soundscapes of American politics and Eastern philosophy.
Dickerson then switched gears on 2011’s Manifestations EP, as he experimented with heavy, slow-dragging synths and back-breaking bass laden beats. Then came 2012’s raucous and rowdy, Killer B’s where industrial met hip-hop in an all-out assault which sounded something like the soundtrack to a nightmare. Alongside his own music, Dickerson is well-known as a producer and re-mixer, most recently for the work he’s done with Flying Lotus and Thundercat.
On Golden Skies, Dickerson presents his softer side. Here is an ambient album, full of textural beats meant to be felt as much as they are to be heard. Right from the start, there is an intense airiness, which pervades the entire record. Gone are the treble heavy and bass soaked beats. They’ve been replaced by softer thumps, likened more closely to the gentler beat of the heart.
The album opens quietly, “Winds of Change” beginning with high-pitched breezy synths that sound as though they’re just waking up, when suddenly the song shifts into a mélange of early techno and house beats, set against African-sounding tribal drums which never get loud enough to offend the ambient nature at the track’s core. A harp helps to transition into the next track, “Transit to the Golden Planet” which has the feel and echo of Miles Davis’s experimental epic Bitches Brew.
The searing and stellar title track, “Golden Skies” shows Dickerson doing what he’s best at, which is acting as a polygamist of sound, marrying together sparkling starry samples with classic jazz piano and having them get along, sounding as though they were meant to be together. Even when he moves into stranger sounding territory, on “Alpha & Omega” with its terrestrial vocal snippets and “Urania” with its choir of ghostly moans, the relaxed elements act as bridges, not filler. Though there are a few fillers near the end, the less than two minute long “Dreamscape” and the near white noise that calls itself “Night Garden.”
Things pick back up with the classic restraint of “Euphoria,” where wobbly and somewhat nasally sounding synths combine with soft down step beats. “Gamma” is filled with mellow funk bass and shimmering synths that build slowly into an acidic ambience, which closes out the album almost as quietly as it was ushered in.
Detractors might argue the point that with each subsequent record, Mono/Poly is still struggling to define or find his own distinct sound. This would be a reasonable worry for any artist who existed before the age of widespread self-releases via sites such as Bandcamp. Now an artist is free to explore and release whatever feels fitting for the moment, not having to worry about having a single or even making a record anyone will like. This seems to have always been Charles Dickerson’s thought process, and so far it has worked out rather well for him – meaning that for Mono/Poly, the sky is literally the limit.