Elijah Paul Crampton has a gift for revealing the connections shared between seemingly unrelated sounds. He’s fascinated by what he refers to as the proximity and movement of sound — the spaces between each frequency and the way they travel in the context of their surroundings, which are continually manipulated by his sense of adventure. Latin American styles such as huayño, Afro-Bolivian saya, and cumbia are carefully integrated with contemporary R&B, pop, and metal. Whether Crampton is re-envisaging the lyrics of a John Mayer song to create a percussion-driven pop harmony or stripping down Drake tracks to illustrate the significance of a spiritual encounter, he forges an intoxicating aural fabric that’s wholly inviting, regardless of its complexity.
Crampton began releasing material as E+E in 2008, and has since produced a handful of low-key Bandcamp offerings and SoundCloud files that have brought him to the attention of DiS, Electronic Beats, and Flagpole, among others. Last year, he compiled two breathtaking discoveries that were self-released as ☆ Original Works ☆ ♫ ☆ and Recortes — the latter of which is no longer online while the former is available as a SoundCloud set, at least for the moment. From these unofficial channels, the L.A.-based producer carved a path for The Light You Gave Me To See You, which he has referred to as his first proper album, a consequence of the vascular compositional systems that playfully interact in between the subjects and objects of Crampton’s sound world.
These facets appear to be wildly unpredictable on the surface, where traditional and tribal drum patterns circle announcements from Latin American radio commercials and ambient synths, but every approach has a purpose that’s formed from the artist’s experiences. As a Bolivian American living in the US, Crampton has borrowed from the ballsy style of commercial statements used by DJs and advertisers from both countries, who enforce product potential by using a archetypal Western, cocksure technique. But instead of alluding to them negatively as Adorno’s baby talkers, Crampton introduces them as poetic commentators within his music, where they embellish streams of cumbia and bounding waves of percussion, trumpets, and panpipes. These fragments don’t seem alluring on paper, but by virtue of the artist’s dexterity, they frame a portrayal of how music is heard in everyday life all around the world: on a bad pair of headphones, on a busy street downtown, on a car stereo while navigating heavy traffic.
The sounds themselves are best represented in the above E+E video, where macho monster trucks go charging up slopes before slamming into each other. Sparks fly as the hands of a spectator recording the performance pan from one side of the arena to another. Crampton went to this event with a friend, and they were sitting so close to the Monster Jam trucks that they had mud and sparks flying into their drinks — crucially, he had just completed “Fire Gut” and felt the resulting footage fitted well with the track. On playback, there’s an immediate connect between his own experiences and the music he writes, regardless of how disorientating it might sound on first listen. “Fire Gut” is no exception: a rain curtain of glitter falls from above, and an anonymous female vocalist eases into the foreground, which finishes the album with the snapping of dried wood and the crackling of embers. Those delicate specks floating over brutish trucks symbolize the melodies and piano keys that drift throughout the album, creating an atmospheric cocktail of power and fragility.
It makes for an exceptional listen, particularly when such textures are juxtaposed on a single track. The singer sends the lyrics of John Mayer into a swirl of motorbike engines and radio gusto on “Omega Plate,” which bears the most well-defined example of stylistic fusion; “When you’re dreaming with a broken heart/ And giving up is the hardest part,” she sings over swelling violins while broadcast interjections and distant traffic give the subtle tremble in her voice an additional kick. Then there’s the opening song, “Reinada,” which propels stuttered percussion sections with bellowing trumpets before breaking down into a combative tirade, where nu-metal vocals are inverted by their mirroring of tribal chants on “Big-Fire” and “Steered.” Those busier, more aggressive numbers then heighten the tension on a piece like “Sword:” The E+E take on Drake’s “Take Care” dislocates any typical relationship or memory one might affiliate with the original version and reconstructs it in the from of fractured radio airplay impressions and a confident, religious disposition.
Crampton’s spirituality has a large effect on his work, whether in the exploration of depth he attributes to Christ’s crucifixion by way of huayño caricatures (“Crux”) or flecks of light within the darkness, bolstered by the singer’s voice on “Omega Plate,” “Sword,” and “Fire Gut.” Even the radio announcers are presented with a greater empowerment, as mouthpieces of a distinct poetry that’s brimming with sentiment in the midst of ostentatious transmission. But Crampton uses his music to tackle audience expectation and preconceived notions about style. He has grand ideas about how sounds can be reinterpreted and how they relate to each other in a new context. Even in an environment of sonic aggression and displacement, he exposes a beautiful truth that lies in the album’s creation — an enchanting testament as to what this producer is capable of.