Only a few months ago, TMT’s very own Kmmy Gbblr probably spoke for many of us when he confessed, “At least two or three times in my life, I have said, ‘This is gonna be the last chillwave album I really like,’” before going on to express surprise at finally catching a glimpse of how the then-latest accused act, the recent project from northern California producer Lee Bannon (or is it Fred Warmsley? WTF?) called First Person Shootr, had decided to present itself visually to the world for the first time: a horror-themed music video for the track “Punch Struck,” from the Mobility for Gods EP. Kmmy may have initially been commenting on the general likability of chillwave and everything else, justifiably or unjustifiably, associated with it, but the reaction singled out First Person Shootr from the other seemingly innumerable, similarly categorized acts.
In actuality, that “unusual” video was/is an appropriate extension of First Person Shootr’s in-spite-of-it-all peculiar sound. Mobility for Gods draws its influences as much from (among other sources) northern California/Bay Area hip-hop and underground electronic as the various now-proto-mother genres that hark back to the days when MTV still showed music videos. For my part, it was the cover for Mobility that initially drew me in, with its depiction of a young woman looking up, face obscured into a blinding brightness by camera flash, which in turn distorts and obscures the background, producing an altogether mystifyingly unsettling texture, in effect evoking a feel or element of filmic horror to the scene. After giving the EP a listen, however, I’m not sure if the music now colored what it meant to me, or if it was the other way around. But that’s part of what makes the music of First Person Shootr so enticing: It straddles but never really settles on anything. It’s equal parts Hype Williams-era R&B, funk-infused new wave via the likes of Prince, chillwave, and everything you ever thought was ambient, and yet at the same time none of these in particular, such that it’s ultimately difficult to describe or qualify.
Perhaps most interesting is the way Bannon (or Warmsley) employs ambient quite successfully — and intriguingly — to soulful yet utterly haunting effect. There’s an unquestionable eeriness and wanting emitted by those broad ambient strokes, as heard on tracks like “Punch Struck” and “See Inn,” which are only helped by the “disembodied” and ghostly effect of Bannon’s vocal manipulations. Yet when things are livened up a bit on what may be the EP’s standout track, “You New Web” — where Bannon demonstrates his vocal chops, recalling the better-half Martin Gore-esque, sleek, gothic ballads of the recent album by kindred spirit Some Ember — the music is no less uncanny or compelling. Mobility for Gods is essentially an exercise in crafting beauty out of those sounds we would associate interpretively with the phantasmagoric, the vacant, slightly, or ambiguously disconcerting emptiness, the unfathomable… the void, perhaps? At moments, it feels like the musical equivalent of peering into the slashes of Lucio Fontana’s “spatial concepts.” But it’s all easier said than done, which is why you have to hear it to believe it.