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John Beltran - Amazing Things


Probably all you really need to know about this album is that it ends with the gurgling laughter of a young child. “Fundamentally contented” is not generally recognised as a great emotional state to start from when making music, but John Beltran has made a decent stab of it, inspired by life as a new father. It may even improve the listener’s mood, though not to the ecstatic peaks inspired by some of his 90s Detroit techno output. Instead, think of how a languid stretch improves a lie-in, or the pleasure of finding an unexpected biscuit.

The good vibes are relentlessly ladled on via the bastard electronic sons of jazz (“Clouds Pull” and “Esperanto”) and folk (“Het Leven Is Mooi”, “Our Second Summer”, “Flower Power Nuclear Submarine”). It’s all brushed snares, ethereal choirs, acoustic licks; Lemon Jelly, Four Tet and A Charlie Brown Christmas come to mind. It’s never twee, but two shorter pieces, “Amazing Things To Come” and “Inexorably Tied To You” get the balance most right, feeling more focused, minimal and thus enigmatic.

Even the ostensibly darker parts are hardly marrow-chilling screams from the black void. “For Vangelis” is aptly titled, but it’s the soundtrack to Bladerunner 2: Electric Boogaloo In The Off-World. And although “Seasons Go” is Burial-esque, it’s the non-existent Burial of “Morning Bus to the Farmers’ Market”. Zing! Yes, dare to bare your soul and I’ll snipe you down from my pit of Anglo-Saxon sarcasm. But once again, it’s the tracks which dial down the buoyancy and finesse the emotion that work best: “Medellin” and “Snow Day” particularly.

Electronic music so wholly and nakedly positive is rarely spotted outside vegan cafes, and at the end of this endless winter one might need a bit of sonic kindling for the last spark of warmth somewhere in the carcass of one’s soul. In that case, Amazing Things comes recommended. However, when everything is a ray of sunshine it might feel we need a few clouds to realise it.

Sam Stagg


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