Album Review: Half-Light by Rostam

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To call Rostam’s Half-Light eclectic would be an understatement. There is no limit to the influence that Rostam pulled from to create this album. As Rostam said, “if your music isn’t pushing boundaries, it’s worthless.” Here he was quoting his long-time companion David Longstreth of experimental-pop band Dirty Projectors, perhaps more figuratively than literally. Regardless of his intent, he kept to true his word in creating Half-Light.

This record is the result of the past ten years of Rostam’s career. Before T-Pain or Kanye West created the iconic auto-tune texture now common in hip-hop, Rostam Batmanglij discovered its power in his Columbia University dorm room. Rostam’s musical ambition carried him from indie-rock band Vampire Weekend to producing for Charli XCX and Frank Ocean (on his song Ivy). Through all this time, Rostam had been putting together an album, which started as a side-project but ultimately became his main artistic focus.

Rostam leaves traces of his influence for the audience to find. In songs like Wood and Thatch Snow, one can hear sounds of both Western and Eastern classical music. The instrumentation and rhythm is based in this influence, but it’s still very unique. Any scents of his influence have been painted in thick, colorful, electronic tones. It would be like an artist making a still life with paint so thick that it protrudes off the canvas.

Rostam has left no stone unturned. Anything an artist makes will mostly be a mixture of the artist’s influences and the resources at their disposal. What Rostam has realized is that the best experimentation is that which is based in influence. So Rostam took these ten years to create whatever sounds and tones he could. Then he made music. Every part of this album fits comfortably in place; it’s familiar yet distinctly the first of its kind.

I think that the people who have been critical of this record have not taken time to really look at what is there. Many critics dislike it because it’s not cohesive, just a collection of different songs he has created. This is true, but what about that is inherently bad? In fact, I would argue that it’s one of the best parts about the album. If Rostam’s discography leading to the present was a puzzle, this would be the final piece. Like his career, it’s expansive and patchy and limitless in the different genres and eras that it takes from.

I think that this album shines above the relatively underwhelming array of other recent releases. However, I have to recognize on some level that Rostam occasionally gets carried away in his creativity, leaving small lulls in the record. The music reflects Rostam’s childish spirit. He likes wandering about his songs, allowing the music to guide him through the song movements. The lyrics reflect his true age. He can let his spirit free while still acknowledging that he is perhaps older than he would seem.

 

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