In the cold light of a winter morning, sharp air flowing like a stream of microscopic daggers against the skin, Robert Takahashi Crouch’s Jubilee sits in the shadows. Crouch asks in the notes about the album, “What can be communicated in my chosen medium, how can I do this, and where (or what) is the porous boundary between my authorship and the listeners’ agency?” The last question is a difficult one and is something I think about often, both as an artist and a listener.
On the outside, Jubilee is a sprawling epoch of synthetic sound and modulations distilled into gleaming shrines of sonic bliss. From an aural standpoint alone, Crouch bends massive tone beds into spheres, the depth and breadth of the drones vibrating like a towering filament illuminating these sounds from within. There’s a sculptural quality to Jubilee as well as if Crouch is peeling back all the extraneous sounds, leaving only the most engaging surfaces. Jubilee is expansive and winsome.
But what does it all mean? Is there any objective way to even answer that? Yes and no. Crouch could explain in detail what each passage, each choice represents for him and how these sounds are conveying that message, those thoughts. Even then, there’s so much more that will influence my own perception of these sounds, and the environment I hear them in shuffles the reception like a prism. Like the way that “Reconciliation” explodes out of the gate like a cathartic breakthrough and trails off, the full impact of that moment permeates the years that follow. Or how “A Ritual” grinds through the emotional depths of buried pain and trauma, examining and processing it within the quietest reaches before pushing it out to sea.
In the end, Crouch’s considered approach and expert-level skill at creating dense, captivating worlds of sound stand out. Jubilee asks a lot of questions, but that context becomes its biggest strength. Crouch has done a fantastic job of crafting music that is emotive and provoking, and once it draws listeners in, the real questions begin.