Jack Garratt’s limited number of releases may make it seem like he’s new to the music industry, but this isn’t entirely true. He’s received backing from BBC Radio both through radio play since 2012 and being chosen as Zane Lowe’s Next Hype record two years later. But now, a mere six months after his debut EP Remnants, he’s back with a follow-up: Synesthesiac.
While his first EP Remnants was heavy on vocals and had more of a pop style to it, Synesthesiac does things differently. The music bears noticeable similarities to the music of James Blake, following in his post-dubstep footsteps. Elements of this were noticeable in the first EP, but Synesthesiac takes it to another level of similarity. The music is mostly slow and plodding, using real instruments alongside electronic sounds varying from ambient in nature to the tell-tale wobbling bass of dubstep, used in the less aggressive style of post-dubstep.
Opening track Synesthesia pt.1 relies mostly on piano and short bursts of the signature bass line, working without vocals. This trend follows into The Love You’re Given, which relies on a looping wordless vocal sample along with Garratt’s own singing, along with sporadic piano, for something much more ambient up until the last minute when the bass lines come back into play. Closing track Lonesome Valley keeps it similar, but instead relies mostly on drums and distorted vocal loops with some brass instruments featuring on top, only in short snippets rather than playing any noticeable melody.
The differences in these songs are noticeable, but when put together they don’t offer anything really interesting. The third track Chemical is the only real game changer, relying more heavily on the wobbling bass than any of the other songs, and also featuring the most present vocals of the EP. To potentially try and connect it to the rest of the EP, it still features piano, which starts near the end in a similar manner to the bass lines in The Love You’re Given, and works well in the context of the song.
The problem is that Chemical doesn’t work in the context of the EP. Its companions are all just a little too similar and low energy to offer any excitement. It almost feels like it’s from a different artist than the one that released Remnants less than a year earlier. Synesthesiac was an interesting change, but leans a little too close to James Blake’s style without offering anything interesting to back it up.