Darian Chen debuts with the soundtrack to a summer corrupted by the delirium of being stuck indoors.
“EP2020” doesn’t sound like a record informed by global lockdown, but it carries with it a sense of bedroom loneliness spurred on by crucial moments slipping out of reach. These three songs are a digitised introduction to Chen’s voice, which, like a bird of prey, dives in close – only to spin upwards, never hitting a steady glide for too long. These performances are backed by reflective pop beats from BQ, with additional production from Chen, creating a dark room full of strobes on “Rooftops” and especially on “New Fashion”. At eight minutes, there’s not much room for Chen to craft a persona on here. As such the music comes first; it’s a smart move to present three vignettes and cast a wide thematic net. Lost love on “Rooftops” turns to smoky swagger on “New Fashion”, which gives way to sunlit breeziness on “Endless Summer”. It’s seemingly a necessity for artists of all industries to carry with them some elaborate identity, which makes the presentation of a product in such a matter of fact way pretty refreshing (if less mythologically involved). “EP2020” is intimate and infectious, a musical eclipse over incoming summer months.
“New Fashion” keeps coming up for good reason – it’s the most confident and adaptive piece in the collection. Chen sounds absolutely on time as BQ fills the atmosphere with electric charges that jump from left to right to left, and surge as the verses build towards the chorus. As the shortest track on “EP2020” it carries more punch than the other two, endlessly colourful and rich with rewarding minutiae. “Rooftops” shoots for similar intensity but gets a little lost in the murkiness of its subject matter. “We had our backs up to the wall… we threw our feelings in the air” are functional lyrics but don’t fully capture the passion Chen puts into the performance. This is Chen’s first release, though, and few can claim to have jumped out the gate with something so confident. “Rooftops” is still an enjoyable and mysterious introduction.
“Endless Summer” lets in light to cast away the mystery. Clean synth-heavy production and liberal use of reverb creates the quintessential sunbaked vibe that “Flower Boy” pushed to the mainstream a few years ago, and Chen is at home atop it as he chases the higher end of his register. “EP2020” ends with a hint at things getting better, a welcome reminder at the time of its release. Again, whilst these songs were built to be timeless they speak to the current time with magnified potency. Chen will be one to watch as his music and the world around him continue to collide.
Listen to “EP2020” here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)