The first thing you should know about Jake Atlas is that he’s not a DJ. Funny that, when most electronic artists get a kick out of spinning live, Atlas isn’t interested in turning up an inebriated dance floor. Not really.
As Thirftworks, this local producer is completely immersed in the artistic quality of each track, and in crafting interesting electronic sounds. Atlas invokes emotions introspectively and, in doing so, stimulates his listeners introspectively. Much of his following — and it’s a bit of a cult following — has been accrued over the last four years, during which he released over seven full-length records including his latest series Fade, Fader, and Fadest, albums premiered weeks apart.
The final installment, Fadest, dropped December 1, an early Christmas present for anyone interested. (All of Thriftworks’ material is available at your price on Bandcamp.) The three albums amount to 57 tracks and nearly three hours of sonic thought experiment. Fade (out November 3) was my introduction to Thriftworks, so take the critique as follows at face value.
After listening, everything else Atlas has done seems shorter than Fade’s monolithic stature. I also couldn’t help but draw comparisons between “a fuerza” and Ryan Hemsworth’s “By Myself” (Alone for the First Time, Last Gang Records, 2014). Both tracks possess a leisurely mid-tone stratosphere that drifts at its own pace regardless of the other layers. It’s easiest if you just listen to them, but otherwise the effect can be visualized as a cloud cover time-lapse.
“Seismic Turf” on this first installment features local rapper Mythicalifornian, who has been relatively inactive on his social networks (in fact, it appears that his Facebook page is no longer a thing). But it’s the second Mythicalifornian collab — the one that borrows less from Eastern music — a shorter clip titled “Reggie” on which Diamond Harris drops his best rhymes, with references to A Clockwork Orange, Socrates, the three little pigs, Pokemon, and Richard Pryor. As you can imagine, it’s pretty fucking great, and Atlas adds some serious value coupling a microtonal church organ-like progression with what can only be a) a physical rain stick or b) Atlas’ convincing impersonation of a rain stick.
“pathetic (a)” is a noteworthy smooth glitch; meanwhile, the 1:30 transition on “pad FUKKK” and its synthesizer dialogue creates a mid-album dreamscape.
I spent significantly less time with Fadest and imagine the sheer amount of material is exhaustive even for long-time followers, but get the sense that Atlas is following elementary essay structure here: bun, patty, bun. “Lest you be Judged” centers on a commendable, wintry jazz watercolor and “Terry’s Big Dab” closes out the series on a similar stylistic note — cue the big band, yeah?
But part of me wonders if middle-child Fader’s 34 tracks could have been culled to a more manageable amount of material. A few key attention-grabbers on November 17’s loaded release sit among swatches of buzz, glitch, and shuffle; “Chiny Chura,” “Jerry’s Lament,” and “Billy’s First Wander” did it for me, but I suspect it’ll be different for everyone.
If you’re looking for accessible, a friend warned me, it probably isn’t here.
He’s right. My critiques tend to focus on accessibility, which is not unimportant ever, but Fader’s just not that. Fade and Fadest would be better options; better still some of Atlas’ previous work.
But Fader is the heart of the series. One could argue its variances make it more accessible, that there’s a hook somewhere for each listener, perhaps within the mechanics on “Lower Sproul,” Russ Liquid’s horn solo on “Jerry’s Lament,” time-stretching drifts on “Billy’s First Wander,” contained drills and echoes on “The Dab King,” or perhaps somewhere else. (Perhaps I’m not the only one as enamoured with the song titles as I am.)
Everything here is uniquely Thriftworks — with non-aforementioned collaborators Rustix, Ill-Esha, Insightful, and Bläp Dëli; and album art by Archan Nair — but the musical themes change drastically from one track to the next; sit on one too long and you’ll get attached, but it will take a certain (and rare) dedication to focus on all 57 thoughts in sequence.
Where to start? That’s your die — weigh them using this article, or don’t, and leave your findings below.
Article by Joanna Jiang