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Healing Spells - “Past Lives” (2018) review

Healing Spells - Past Lives (Self-released, 2018)

I know, I know. You’re judging the album art. I get it. That was my first instinct too. I suppose the moral here is that a phenomenally talented musician can also be a completely inept visual artist.

Healing Spells, the solo project of a Tokyo-based producer, put out a staggeringly gorgeous EP this January. What surprises me is that it holds its own when put up against IDM masters like OneOhtrix Point Never, Dan Deacon, and Andy Stott. Spanning just five tracks, Past Lives weaves together a gleaming synthetic tapestry of future house, downtempo, and neo-psychedelia.

We step into the artist’s world with “Levitate,” a song I can’t help but compare to Dan Deacon’s Gliss Riffer. The way Healing Spells stitches together vocals sampling and xylophone-like synths into a flowing, almost meditative river of sound is completely enthralling. “Precious Love” is another expertly produced track. There’s a resonance to the chaos of synths colliding with one another—above all the intermingling we find a contentment, a spaciousness.

Onto the title track of the release and a literal stream directs our attention with its underlying ambience. I want to call the arrangement recycled, but the overflowing complexity of instrumentation continues to converge towards a transfixing harmony. While each song on the release is its own ocean of glorious experimentation and disorientation, none of them carry on for too long and wind up forfeiting their potency. Rather, they’re all cut into bite size chunks.

“Sanskrit” sends us off with a hope reaffirmed. Female vocals are chopped and rearranged while bass-heavy male vocals emerge from the periphery. The track is buttressed by rudimentary synths that provide a needed level of accessibility. An electronic orchestra emerges among picturesque flowers and sunshine. Healing Spells takes his place in the world of IDM—all he needs now is a graphic designer.

-Gabe Kahan
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