The fact that, in just a couple short years, the phrase “Low End Theory favorite” has become a cliche is a testament to the already-legendary output of the LA beat clique. Low End Theory alums are pretty much a literal who’s-who of the beat scene today: Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, The Gaslamp Killer, Daddy Kev… hell, even Thom Yorke got a (much publicized) piece. Enter promising young buck Jonwayne, who I valiantly tried to avoid describing as a “Low End Theory favorite” but simply couldn’t find another way to convey that kind of pedigree. Simply put, the kid would be hard pressed to find anything but ludicrous amounts of success with that much concentrated, internationally recognized cool backing him.
His new EP on Alpha Pup, The Death Of Andrew, contains six tracks with a clearly unified sound, something hard to come by from a young producer. Foreboding chord progressions, ever-so-slightly sweetened by neon-lit synths and unabashedly goofy 8-bit flourishes abound, anchored by heavy 404 kicks all the way to the cartoon strip club. The Death Of Andrew walks a difficult tightrope between sinister and silly, occasionally leaning more to one side or the other. When it’s good, it’s SO good- lead single “King” takes a lurching 404 beat and smothers it in piano chords that sound like Keith Jarrett with a face full of ayahuasca and catchy-as-hell 8-bit synths straight out of the last level of the hardest Nintendo game you ever played as a child, keeping it all gangster with a brilliantly simple Rick Ross vocal sample.
The twitchy “Pillars Of Sand” rides a delightfully paranoid live bassline and some vintage-sounding synthesized strings into an absolutely huge, albeit somewhat introverted, groove. Other tracks, while clearly not destined to be stand-alone singles, work well in the context of The Death Of Andrew. The subdued “Andrew’s Dead” continues with the huge synth leads, this time over muffled drums and handclaps, which perhaps wouldn’t stand on its own as a remarkable track but gives the EP some much needed dynamics. “Escape” is a three-minute slab of staggering, woozy chiptune drunkenness, evocative of something Donkey Kong would bump about three quarters of the way through a nasty banana schnapps and lean bender.
All told, while The Death Of Andrew won’t stand as one of the most memorable Alpha Pup releases this year, it certainly demonstrates why Jonwayne is so highly regarded at such an early stage of his career. It shows a deft ear, killer production chops, and a flair for the dramatic that only occasionally appears labored or overdone. The kid is the real deal, for sure, and his subsequent releases are almost sure to catapult him into the vaunted pantheon of producers and tastemakers the Low End Theory crew are known for. Check out The Death Of Andrew, if for no other reason than to say you were up on Jonwayne before he blew up, because this is the tip of the iceberg for sure.