New on the scene, LA based producer Taylor Freels, better known as Urulu, released his second EP this March on Exploited Records. The three track EP, entitled “Across the Sky,” is a comfortable blend between old school house sensibilities and modern soul, creating something both easily accessible as well as culturally complex.
The title track, “Across the Sky,” begins as if emerging from underwater; a washed-out synth slowly leaks into headphone speakers, accompanied by a female soul vocalist, her voice panning left to right. Around a minute-thirty, a soft bass drum thud is introduced, layered with distant sounding auxiliary percussion that sounds like the striking of pots and pans. The song establishes its strongest groove around two minutes, with a subdued but danceable beat infused with ambient synth lines that keep the atmosphere light and dreamy. Around three minutes, the song shifts in feel from something amorphous and fluid into something smooth and jazzy, and clings to this idea for the remainder of the track. The delicate use of vocal samples throughout the track makes the song consistently interesting, but the music itself remains too restrained and repetitive to be thoroughly enjoyable.
The second track, “We Belong (Together),” begins in much the same fashion as “Across the Sky.” An airy synthesizer builds from near silence, this time layered with a more prominent auxiliary percussion line. This track establishes its groove far sooner than the first, with the introduction of hi hat around forty five seconds that heads the song’s quiet drive. Around a minute thirty, the song strips itself of its percussive elements and allows multiple layers of vocal samples (ranging from individual vocalists to a full female chorus singing “freedom!”) to leak into the stereo field. Around three minutes, there’s a very similar breakdown as heard in the first track; the music is reduced to its most basic rhythmic elements while a vocal sample takes center stage and commands listeners’ attention. The song then gently diminishes in volume and instrumentation until there is nothing but a subtle pulse that lifts listeners’ out from the music. On the whole, “We Belong (Together)” is a livelier, more danceable track, but, again, the song’s consistent mildness makes the song feel bland and uninspired.
The final track, “Don’t Dare,” unfortunately begins in an almost identical fashion as the other two tracks, save the addition of a complex, well-textured beat that makes the song feel looser and more uncomfortable. The track doesn’t really introduce any new elements until around two minutes, when there is yet another drums and vocals breakdown, utilizing the same vocal sample heard in track number one. Around four minutes, acting as one of the only original elements introduced in the track, a piercing siren wail invades the stereo field, responding to the vocal sample that’s stating, “I know you want it!” over and over again. I’d say this track was the most rhythmically complex of the three, but the least original by far.
Ultimately, “Across the Sky” is an interesting attempt at blending soul music and EDM, and, on some levels, it works. When the EP is at its strongest, it displays incredibly lush textures, usually comprised of layered vocal samples and subdued, atmospheric synthesizer. However, there are simply too few of these strong, successful moments throughout, and for the majority of my listen, I found myself feeling bored, waiting for something new to happen, hoping that the music would stop sounding as if it was being played below the surface of a swimming pool. The energy of the EP is just too constant, and there aren’t enough spikes in volume, texture, or intensity to make it a lasting collection of music. Ultimately, “Across the sky,” could easily have been one track, and may have been more interesting/successful if that was the case, but, as of now, the music is too washed out and redundant for my tastes, and honestly, a lot of it just sounds the same.