Oakland sound engineer David Vincent Reep hits hard with the nostalgia on Transitions, his first full-length album of electronica as Elephant & Castle, out on the L.A.-based Plug Research label. He’s not conjuring actual nostalgia for all the good times you had in the summer of 2006, or whenever, but rather anticipating a yearning for echos of times to come, or perhaps of a past moment that didn’t stick the first time around. In so doing, the album churns up a head-melting mash of unusual samples, lush, ambient electronica, and sparse jazz beats.
Transitions is a follow-up to Reep’s Analogue EP, also under the Elephant & Castle handle, a name taken from an area of London where he used to spend time. The album sometimes deflates into a pleasant but unchallenged mix, perfect for the soundtrack to a yoga class; instructions to really breathe into your child’s pose would not sound out of place. But, mostly, Elephant & Castle captures the sensual possibilities of electronica without settling into well-rubbed grooves.
Reep weaves samples of the Mills Brothers’ “Dream of You” into “Derni/Paralysis”, making the horn-propelled ’50s pop standard stretch catlike into a shivering mirage. On “En Memoria”, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs sings a delicate, warm vocal line, holding the melody like a live butterfly in a soft fist, sounding a lot less feral than usual. Reep surrounds her beautifully with a swirl of oboe, bass, bongos, and etherea.
One of the more beat-driven tracks on the album, “Altered Scones” sways and dips under a fuzzy, well-focused melody. Reep’s organ line has a touch of clangy, church-basement piano that gives the song a wholesome cleanliness. Maybe the song is just tapping into a recessed memory of pounding out “Chopsticks” after Sunday School class, but Transitions is full of moments like that. It reaches for the subconscious.
Essential Tracks: “Derni/Paralysis”, “En Memoria”, and “The Hangar”