Airbird AirbirdTrust EP
In case anyone had any doubt, Joel Ford is the man with the melodies in the duo Ford & Lopatin. His partner, Daniel Lopatin –with whom he also heads the label Software, where this EP appears as a sort of aesthetic manifesto–is outstanding when it comes to ambient, to landscapes, and that is why their albums separately tend to be better than the ones they make together. Lopatin without Ford has luminous ideas, and Ford without Lopatin boils down to a vintage electronic pop without too much shine. I am one of the people who thought that “Channel Pressure” (2011) was promising, but never confirmed the expectations raised by the two of them joining forces. In spite of the games of references and the occasional outstanding song like “The Voices”, it was an album that didn’t really deliver everything that it promised to—something that Lopatin’s exciting “Replica” under the moniker of Oneohtrix Point Never, did do several months later. This is a criticism that can also be made of “Trust EP”, the second release from Ford as Airbird: it’s like Ford & Lopatin without the ambition of forging a hit, and like Oneohtrix Point Never sprinkled with sugar. A strange no man’s land.
The five songs on the EP shift back and forth between different references. On the one hand, we have the misty, nostalgic electronica of the Boards Of Canada school; revealed in that sanded-down sound and the documentary voices in “Deep Dreams, Ltd.” and in the ringing IDM of the effective “Royal”. On the other hand, there’s that late synth-pop - somewhere between Thomas Dolby, the inevitable Jan Hammer and 80s Tangerine Dream - that tries to dodge all of the kitsch references that it harks back to. There are voices recorded with a primitive sampler, alongside the earliest drum-machines, that give shape to the tearjerker ballad “Goodnight” and the retro-pop of “Girl”. There is also a strange encounter between post-dubstep and a house cadence (like Girl Unit and electronic AOR - saxes, affected synths, and saccharine melodies) in “Trust”. That is the strangest cut on the EP, and the one that best defines Joel Ford’s sound intentions: to remain permanently trapped in a time loop in the years 1984-85, building his own particular utopian soundtrack for endless youthful parties, beaches, dusk, and an ever-radiant California. The idea is still good, but the results aren’t; not as much as we’d like.