ASTÉRISME = HOME + Pictureplane +Crystal Castles
ASTÉRISME’s debut EP, TERROIR, defies neat categorization. While at times it feels like standard SoundCloud fare, the duo Bill Miller and Micah Johnston have drawn from the internet’s vast repository of influences to create something more than just a SoundCloud beat tape. “SLEET” is reminiscent of HOME’s ambient euphoria, “TUNDRA” carries bits of Crystal Castles in its ethereal sound, and “CAPSIZED” has a mean drone beat you can hear rattling all over the internet—but the EP doesn’t feel defined by any single sound or influence.
TERROIR begins with “SLEET,” its warmest and most thrumming song. It’s built up by what feels like the beat of a heart, an expanding and contracting “ump, whump” repetition with a single synth snare punctuating the buildup. The heart bursts, splashing into a happy bath. It’s easily the most listenable track, and I figured that it was setting the tone for the rest of the EP, but no. What immediately follows in “CAPSIZED” plays off the mellow burn of “SLEET” into something even more droning and cacophonous, more frenetic and hollow, as though the warm bath is long gone behind you. Perhaps “SUBMERGED” is meant to reinforce this feeling, leading with a disparate vocal sample, pleading, “Down, down, down / Pulling me down,” before drowning in its own beat. “TUNDRA” sounds like a straight up blizzard. The end track, “TULIPS,” riffs The Bilinda Butchers’ song of the same name but gives the song’s chillwave melody a harsh snare backbone and yanks the dreamy vocals, solidifying the bizarre range of ASTÉRISME.
Only five songs, 15 minutes long and varied in its soundscape, TERROIR flows more than it lingers. It is a product of the weird and delightfully strange corners of the internet, which foster all sorts of scenes that are simultaneously derivative and innovative. TERROIR is one of those EPs that reconciles this fact for the better. Its album art suggests a vaporwave influence (a low-texture 3D model of a snowy mountain—something out of an N64 game, perhaps) with its title printed as though from a VHS camcorder, displaying a primitive, digital square where the accent aigu on its first “e” should be. This is just what TERROIR is—a seemingly categorizable mishmash of styles founded on chill, droning beats that don’t quite amount to just a mixtape but a proper EP worth listening to, so long as you appreciate the experimental world of SoundCloud artists. –Parker Scott Mortensen