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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/12/2013

Axel Boman Family Vacation

Sweden's Axel Boman first gained serious attention with his 2010 track "Purple Drank," which was released on DJ Koze's Pampa label. He's since gone on to establish himself as a consistent producer with his own set of idiosyncrasies, but Koze's initial backing still feels like quite a heavy—perhaps the heaviest—influence on his sound. Like Koze, Boman trades in a type of house which expertly balances emotion and quirk; it's as inviting as it is intricate, and is wont to switch directions. Family Vacation, his debut LP, is as fine an introduction as any to the producer's approach.

Boman describes his process in composing the album thusly: "I decided to go through the vast collection of ideas and sketches I had on my computer, as a final project before I set that machine on fire and let it all go up in flames." It's a premise that doesn't necessarily bode well—many dance producers are used to composing for EPs, and end up making full-lengths that are more like data dumps than actual albums. There is, in fact, a lot of variety on Family Vacation, certainly enough to dissuade Boman from attempting to insert a narrative flow. Ultimately what saves the record—not to mention makes it a quality effort—is that Boman's pieces are often mini-narratives on their own, and do not need any outside context to succeed.

That said, Family Vacation is probably best enjoyed in pieces. Its runtime is a leisurely 60-something minutes, and the producer tends to reuse motifs, namely soul loops, woozy deep-house chords, and booming bass tones, which occasionally results in a soporific effect. Of course, this is just fine for a record that's probably more meant for home use than a DJ set; it is made from scraps, after all. But listening to it in one sitting, without something to occupy one's mind alongside it, can feel like a bit of a task. When one dives into the pieces on their own, though, there is a wealth of detail to enjoy. Opener "Can't Find It" rises above its somewhat drowsy base thanks to its twitchy, flexible rhythm, while the romantic midpoint melody of "Animal Lovers" is arrestingly accomplished. Elsewhere, "Barcelona" recalls the dancefloor-tinged R&B production on Jessy Lanza's recent Pull My Hair Back LP, with its soft melodies rubbing up against a bumpy, gravelly bassline and stuttering drums. "Bottoms Up" interpolates a steel band for a maniacal conga-line-meets-house workout, and "Fantastic Piano" lives up to its title, conjuring a kind of nostalgic The Wonder Years vibe from its sentimental lead instrument. Boman's music comprises a sometimes bizarre blend of melancholy and ecstasy, and this is occasionally awkward. On paper, "New Krau Era" should be such an example, but it's actually one of the most charming cuts on the album, balancing a moody, downcast framework with exuberant hip-house interjections. Overall, Family Vacation succeeds because of these types of juxtapositions. Moreover, its variety displays why Boman remains endearing to so many different audiences.

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