In the last year or so, Non Projects has cemented its reputation as one of L.A.s most creative labels, releasing a steady stream of gorgeous, beat-centric music grounded in jazz and classical teachings. Their latest offering, Rarebits Daizo, is another stunner in the already impressive NP catalog, which currently houses the vibrant visions of label head and former Alpha Pup/Friends of Friends intern Brian Simon (aka Anenon), Ryan York (aka Asura), Ana Caravelle, and a.d.l.r/ROM-DOS.
Like the artwork, Daizo is a densely colorful, strikingly elegant, and intensely moving album from Justin Hopkins, a 24-year-old illustrator-producer-sound designer from the Pacific Northwest. Named for his grandfather, Daizo is an album about his connection to his past, citing relatives who lived during the Great Depression as key inspiration for the album.
Building on the cut-and-paste technique established on his debut EP, The Destroyer, Hopkins produces entirely different tracks using the same basic elements, sampling and manipulating textured beats, ethereal vocals, and jazz and world percussion, all appearing on different parts of the album. The compositions are complex and constantly evolving, never dwelling on a particular melody for too long.
Throughout, these songs seem to come in pairs. Running Tangles and Mt Weather are sisters, unique tracks culled from the same drum tracking session, as are Emergence and Convergence. Perhaps the most compelling track, though, is Phantom Wall, a long, dreamy builder. Opening with a quiet, shimmering synth melody that expands alongside a lone voice that grows into a choir of ethereal echoes, Phantom Wall grows increasingly loud, ending in a flurry of pulsating tribal percussion akin to Feels-era Animal Collective.
Extremely well-executed and cleverly arranged, Daizo is the kind of album that you can listen to over and over again, each time discovering something new and beautiful.
Essential Tracks: “Phantom Wall”