semi-cycle – MOMENTUM EP [Opposite Thought]

by | May 24, 2024 | Reviews, Tunes

I had the pleasure this month of taking some time to talk with semi-cycle aka Kris Hansen to talk about his artistic process and background, as well as his work with his current ensemble on the MOMENTUM EP. This record is firmly in the dance category, with jungle and drum and bass influence tinging the soulful and effervescent vocals – Kris flexes his production skills between Logic and a highly synergistic set of gear as well as his original vocal chops. You can enjoy his singing, rapping, trumpet playing, and choral self-accompaniments on this. When we spoke about this album it was clear that this artist has a deeply important connection to the listening experience, and rather than letting this become pandering or pretentious, its quite the opposite – the experimental process of creating this music pegs the artists as listeners as well as active participants. Kris utilizes two separate areas in his creative space: one primarily oriented towards a hardware setup that includes a Roland SP404 sampler, TR8s drum machine, and the BOSS RC505, and one that is more oriented towards his primary DAW Logic, listening, and mixing. The former he described as a “workshop” where ideas are sketched out and tweaked, and the latter as a finishing implement to finalize and mix their material together. Citing Zachary Lyda (Halfspeed Audio, Opposite Thought Recordings), Sam Hudgens, and Alec Trickett on drums as central contributors to this album, semi-cycle has provided us with a truly memorable and intimate experience in MOMENTUM. Its a dance record, it’s a summery feel-good record, these are all love songs, and it’s a window into an artist who’s curiosity about music and self-exploration is so evident in this collection it’s infectious!

Let’s get into the track-by-track:

Pretty place was one of the two singles released from MOMENTUM, and starts the record off with a (relatively) downtempo groove that quickly burns into a jumpy introduction to the sonic palette of semi-cycle. Layered lyrics about life and philosophy, nostalgia, and growing from a strong base of self-knowledge help blend a hefty sidechain into the lush atmospherics, and really allows the progression of this one to shine: by the end of the track we’ve washed on shore wondering what just happened. The car is on, the gas pedal is down. I hear a little prog rock/post rock influence as Kris dips into minor tonalities as this one goes on. To me this felt like the introduction of a set – it moves right into the next single, Beta-car.

Skillfully pushing the tempo up ~10 BPM while pushing the groove back behind the beat, semi-cycle leans on Alec Trickett’s live drums to fill out a laid back intro beat inspired by jungle, which then features a bluesy solo vocal line from Kris that evolves as the energy builds. This second single is skillfully placed in the order, driving my ear to relax and listen deeper. Kris flexes some serious skills with sequencing and live elements in the first two pieces, that are building in energy from the get go. From a compositional standpoint these two first tracks are tied together in a really special way, they almost quote each other with the 4×4 rhythm and similar tonality, setting up the first part of the album to dive into what’s about to happen next – that being said if you’re not singing “I’m in my ride tonight baybaaaaaeeee” after, you’re not listening.

MNBTS (implications) is just completely mind-blowing to me – its a complex journey through the experience of reflection and choice, the illusions we hold and challenge all the time. Drum and bass and jungle representing in the drums and reese bassline as well as in composition – this one is such a sonic treat for the listener! Tonally, Kris uses a chant in the chorus to retain a central idea while dancing around musically between a moody, modal jazz main section and a few happier vistas throughout. Yet again, semi-cycle offers these amazing bridge/builds that setup the changes in this album and tension points incredibly skillfully. I just hear so many different ideas and influences in here it seems a disservice to the artist to try and list them and distill this creation. More about that later.

Opening the second half of the album with a trippy and soulful guitar riff, Double Vision continues the up-tempo broken beat trend with a dreamscape forged around a rolling and undulating bassline. I love this groovy bass that supports a smoked out high vocal texture that really drives the song through the first half. I could be wrong but I think this one features live drums as well. Reminiscent of the classic “Summertime Madness”, this feverish jam really digs into the backbeat. Triple up the vocal line as heard in the last section, and you’ve got a vibey second half of this album. Also, I think this might be the only dance song that will ever have a 5-let in it and still groove.

I don’t even know where to start with this, but “U Got Me Wonderin’ (this way)” is an ANTHEM! Immediately grabbing the energy with a classic and snappy drum and bass sequence, we are quickly graced with more lush clusters of jazzy piano greatness, and then the chorus comes in… and it’s literally just so easy and fun to sing – catchiness at its best. This is what being in love feels like – nothing can touch you – you can hear the vocalist smiling when he’s singing! Kris then goes on to show off some of his MC skills (MORE ON THAT LATER) for a hot 16, that laces up the swagger and drive of this one.  Let it ride and lay back thinking about the ones that you love.

Finishing up with the title track, momentum immediately puts you into introspection. I think this was intentionally composed to have a closing feel, with a vocal line exposed in a spotlight that builds to a soaring high note (go ahead Kris). I love that they give us a few minutes to digest everything before getting right into a final build, rinsing out with a tasty groove and that signature stoic top vocal line that provides tension over these gorgeous changes. This one is like 90s grunge rock changes over tasty jungle and soul vocals and bass. Great lyrics, a truly awesome wrap up to this body of work. Pay attention to how the drums are TUNED in this piece – it’s totally amazing how much tone is intentionally used in this last one to provide musical content.

If you like Thundercat, Erykah Badu, Marc Rebillet, Masego, Pinkpantheress, Anderson-Paak, Goldie, Halogenix, London Elektricity, Javeon, Calibre, Tame Impala, or just music in general, you need to give this six-track EP a good listen. I was dancing the whole time through, skipping back to make sure I heard it right, and trying to decipher lyrics through such interesting sonic texture. The programming of the tracks is perfect – it follows a clear arc, energetically and emotionally, yet has such a nostalgic feel in the first half, looking forward in the second. It’s modern, yet heavily influenced by classical music and jazz music as well as classical pedagogy. The skill and connection to material that is required to translate feelings to the audience like this is immense – this is the result of a decade long journey of constant evolution and exploration. You can purchase this amazing album for the incredible price of a DOLLAR PER TRACK here.

Content Crafted by:

Tonto

DJ / Producer living in Brookfield, IL specializing in deep, funky, and soulful drum and bass. Streaming many of these reviews live at twitch.tv/tontomusic