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Graham Van Pelt – Time Travel

Delicately constructed with interesting layers of electronic bass and synth, Toronto singer/producer Graham Van Pelt’s Time Travel is a journey littered with sleek production and outer-worldly sounds. Formerly having performed with bands under the monikers Miracle Fortress and Inside Touch, Van Pelt has removed all aliases to allow for a much more personal and raw LP. His latest outing is a mixture of friendship and feeling throughout time, with his move from Montreal to Toronto causing a recommitment to emotional honesty in his work.

His recommitment is more than on display within the first moments of opener “New Friends”. A peaceful synth opens, with sub-bass soon entering the fray. It’s accompanied by light, propulsive electronic percussion. The hi-hats with the drum and bass provide a soothing atmosphere that remains present throughout a large majority of the album. Van Pelt’s calming voice not long after blends into the beat – “new friends, so many new friends to run to”. The beat pattern follows suit with little variance other than the slight addition of bass layers and electric piano chords. The layers combine to create a slow build with Van Pelt’s vocals over the top. Time Travel may be a much more complex listen than his previous efforts, yet if given the time tracks like “New Friends” will earnestly grow on you as quality deep house songs.

Continuing on from the sleek production of the opener is the single “Release Yourself”. It showcases Van Pelt at his most upbeat and creative. Listening to the opening instrumental of jungle-esque drums and bongos with a nice bass groove throughout, you can definitely sense a Tornado Wallace or Bodhi influence upon Van Pelt’s new work. With drums fading away and a lonesome thumping bass, Van Pelt gets to work – his echo-effected vocals joined by jangling synths and those crisp electro hi-hats from earlier. It’s cleverly and subtly woven together in a way that most listeners will find irresistible.

Van Pelt decides to change up the groves for a much more reserved and electronic offering than the deep disco and house textures from the opening two tracks on “Saving Grace”. The track slows down the pace with much more focus on Van Pelt’s vocals and storytelling techniques – as well as a greater emphasis on space-like synths, chords and beats to progress. The production on this track carries a real slick detail that perhaps doesn’t go as noticed in the more upbeat tracks.

The mid-section of Time Travel is a much deeper affair than previously shown. Both “Out Of This World” and “Vanishing Point” fall into deep-house and electro vibes. These two tracks separate themselves from the rest of the album in how they have been arranged, yet the outer-worldly elements and lyrical themes are still present throughout. “Out of This World” certainly feels inspired by early Toro y Moi work – yet much more spacey and galactic in delivery. The minimalist drum and bass beats combined with silky synths presents a fresh and futuristic take on a dance genre that can feel very dull and overdone at times. “Vanishing Point” is very much the same in this delivery. “Under the starlight, calving through the void” Van Pelt calmly sings over the thick bass and synth beat, transporting you through space and time with glittery production that is both deep and brimming with character.

The title track furthers the deep production sound present on the previous two tracks and perhaps strips it back a bit more. Over a light beat, “Time Travel” focuses on Daft Punk-esque synth tones and progressions and Van Pelt’s voice more so than the drum and bassline combination.

Up next, “One Thing” features an omnipresent soaring synth chord and is littered with various layered electronic elements. Van Pelt’s vocals are stretched throughout in a personal tale about love. “Still I get so lonesome when you go,” he sings as an 8-bit synth builds on top of layers of colourful electro sounds. The track is quite generic in its approach, and its final two minutes lead to a build-up of waves that never get anywhere but rather fade away.

Rather than finish on a high, Van Pelt decides to take things down a gear, with just soft piano chords and light synths dancing across his vocals without any bass to be found. “Mountainside” is perhaps Van Pelt at his most personal and raw – allowing his vocals to tell the story and set the tone rather than the instrumentation. With lyrics such as “I thought I’d grow old here like so many had before, you couldn’t see how hard they had to dig their heels in,” it’s obvious Van Pelt is moving on from his old life and his old aliases. The track is ultimately the self-reflection of his new chapter set through this LP.

Time Travel is so dense in production and style that if you don’t give it the proper chance it deserves it can be easily dismissed. Van Pelt has shown that his next chapter is one filled with wonder and exploration not only in thematic elements but also in tones and production. While there isn’t a great deal of variance in style from track to track, Time Travel certainly succeeds in not alienating listeners who aren’t accustomed to deep house. There’s much to like about this release and it will no doubt grow on you with repeat listens.

Time Travel is released Friday 19th October via Arbutus Records.