Two rooms, one producer
John Legg, known in music circles as Goldroom, offers the bifurcated Plunge /\ Surface after months of slowly teasing its content through a stream of releases. Tied together by lyrical allusions, themes and the same featured artists, the two halves are portioned into rather different musical styles. On the Plunge side, Goldroom builds six tracks around an ‘80s-influenced, electropop sensibility, filled with a variety of synths, guitars and memorable melodies. Completing the thematic palindrome, Surface sees him in DJ-mode, as the songs from the first side return as their photo-negatives, marked by crescendoing synthesizers and thumping beats.
“Cocaine Girl,” one of two tracks not boasting a featured singer, paints a portrait of an all-night outing along with a wave of guitar and synthesizer riffs. While far from the best on the set, the shimmering imagery and catchy chorus serve as evidence that Goldroom isn’t wholly reliant on the featured artists that follow. “Do You Feel It Now” slinks its way in with a clipped, guitar phrase and infectious beat as the staccato singing of Love, Alexa asks, “what keeps you picking up the pieces of me night after night?” References to the club scene continue on Mereki’s slowly simmering, first appearance, “You’re Incredible.” Guitar-heavy “Nothing Matters” features Chela’s crisp, bright vocals in a tropical stew of ‘80s nostalgia, replete with a helping of steel pan drums.
Nikki Segal gets her turn on the bouncy “Running Wild,” one of the best tracks on the album. Distorted guitar riffs play alongside Segal’s extended bursts of syncopated vocals, which elongate over the airy chorus as the balmy feel soaks in with echoed guitar chops and bongo rhythms. “Trust,” the best writing on the album, strips away much of the previous tracks’ accompaniment, leaving a bassline, Mereki and great melodies. With distinct changes from verse to chorus to bridge and simple, but lasting lyrics, the song can stand on its own outside of the genre.
Side two opens with an echoed sample of Mereki’s voice from the previous song. “Yellow Flowers” signals the shift of the album into dance, as Goldroom morphs from band leader into DJ. Familiar synth progressions and a beat-focused ethos guide listeners back up from the descent of the first side. The thematic mirror appears undisguised and the featured artists surface in reverse order to “complete” their songs from the plunge, albeit through a different lens. Chela’s “U” is a must-dance number with it’s throbbing beat. Love, Alexa’s “I Can Feel It” throws in a couple of mellower breaks, but is equally danceable. “I Think,” another one of Mereki’s tracks, once again steals the show. Urgently uptempo with odd vocal samples and pulsing synths, the song’s resurgent ending is the highpoint of the second side.
By the time the funky “Everybody’s Lonely” comes around, it feels like closure to a long night, or perhaps a subdued encore at a Goldroom concert. Alternately, the album could be viewed as a modern update to the days where a dub side might accompany an album release. The trick here is that all the songs can stand on their own—their pairing with an alter-ego only enhances them. The featured artists are expertly used in various manners, and complement, but never outshine, the overall package. Plunge /\ Surface is a great collection of songs with an interesting take on two genres of music from one talented artist.