Topaz: Half Awake EP


Topaz is a Chicago beatsmith who I found on the deepest, darkest depths of the internet and have been in contact with ever since. This is sort of a lazy post, because I’ve known about this music for a long time – this is low-key one of my favorite EPs I’ve ever found on the Internet, and a lasting component of my iTunes library (high praise, but man do I sound like a snob).

The relevant reference that keeps coming to mind for me is Animal Collective – spacey, digitized vocal harmonies which float in and out over shuffling percussion and synth pads. Ultimately though, this music is more based on guitar loops than nature samples and synths, and just bringing up one reference makes me feel lame and reductive. “Half Awake part 1” (the first of two title tracks) initiates us into the vibe of Topaz, splattering lush harmonies and bright/jangly guitar tones all over the mix in the best way. The driving yet somehow organic-feeling percussion leads us into “LVLD,” which is sort of a more progressive slow jam (which isn’t atypical of the album I suppose). I wish I could quote lyrics to demonstrate the effect he gets on these tracks, but all I can say is that there’s some reverb and some delay and I like everything the way it is. In terms of transitions, every song has several unique segments which mesh together so smoothly that it’s difficult to tell when I’m changing from one track to another, making for an extremely cohesive listening experience. “Out of Play” adds some new and fascinating synth tones reminiscent of Mount Kimbie. “Half Awake pt 2” is the track immediately queued up for bandcamp streaming, and that makes sense – it is in many senses the most idiosyncratic track on the EP, and also perhaps the most cohesive within itself (i.e. the only one I’d listen to without just listening to all five tracks in a row). Unintelligible vocal streaks return again, but this time with more of a bump and groove than spaced-out pining; in percussion, we get a clap and a snare for once, which really help to ground the track (at least while they’re in the mix). The more that I write, the more I feel that I’m doing the music a disservice by nailing it down to such specific linguistic choices: this music languishes comfortably in ambiguity and uncertainty. The last track, “Meridian (Capo Song)” is by far my favorite on the mix, probably because the feels are just so positive (contrasted with the neutral/nostalgia of the first four tracks). One guitar lick (played with a capo, obviously) loops over and over until it builds into another shuffling groove, but this time we’re allowed five minutes to groove on the same groove as the EP plays out with many a guitar flourish.

I can’t over-emphasize how great this thing is on every listen, really. Like many other obscure internet fans, I couldn’t be more excited to hear more from Topaz – it’s only a matter of time now, they say! Grab this EP from his bandcamp.

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