When you listen to the music of artists like Joel Ford, it’s as if the 90s never happened. With long time collaborator and childhood friend Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Ford jumped straight from his Boston-born soft-rock band Tigercity, enmeshed in its 70s and 80s jazz-funk influences, to the archaic production techniques of the same era in Games, later rechristened the appropriately disco-sounding Ford & Lopatin. There’s not a flannel shirt to be found in the mix, and this from a musician born in Boston and educated in Amherst, MA, before moving to Brooklyn over seven years ago.
Since then there’s been a handful of releases, never to see the metallic sheen of a compact discs 0s and 1s, instead either released on vinyl or straight to download. For Ford’s second solo release under the Airbird moniker, Trust is a freeing excursion beyond the hustle of New York City and out into the Appalachian mountains.
From his current residence in Asheville, Carolina, the five-track EP was recorded at Ford’s home studio and it makes all the difference. ‘Royal’ is given room to breathe as two different rhythm lines are introduced, one at a time, before being joined together along a skittering current toward nowhere in particular, while title-track ‘Trust’ languishes in a bath of propulsive organs and glitched-out polyrhythms, broken through by an occasional falsetto vocal.
But change is always a gradual process, and as Ford slowly extricates himself from the urban jungle of recent memory, there are still elements of the claustrophobic sonic blocks and basements that saw the pixelated palate of Games create a distinctly retrogressive, though hauntingly beautiful style of its own. ‘Girls’ in particular, is the only track not mixed by Ford himself. Rather in-house engineer Al Carlson –of Ford and Lopatin-run, NYC-based imprint Software –does the honours. The outcome is broken down beats and fragmented vocal samples that are reconstituted to the point of a glorious sterility only the virtual world can generate. These utopian ideas of bliss, deconstructed and reinterpreted, share both aesthetic similarities with the likes of other New York based artists like James Ferraro, even Fatima Al Qadiri as album opener ‘Deep Dreams Ltd’ smacks of the former’s ‘Palm Trees, Wi-Fi and Dream Sushi’ or Al Qadiri’s ‘Corpcore’.
That track opens over a sound byte from an unknown source that announces, “Let me show you a secret world,” before melting into a bed of ambient synthesisers and simulated windpipes. It feels like something you’d encounter at a Second Life day spa, if it weren’t for the slightly disturbing contrast with an offbeat and eerily jaunty melody, perceptible just beneath the surface.
That still very ‘online’ vibe of Trust, doesn’t just express that transhumanist pursuit of spiritual discovery and physical transcendence through technology. It also carries along an arduous path away from the synthetic and into the physical. But given the mode of creation and the way we live, Trust gives that slightly unsettling sense that it’s something inescapable.