It’s not easy to pin a genre to Son Step. Some have compared to the Philadelphia experimental outfit to Animal Collective, which is fair. But, really, Son Step is unique, and the band fully demonstrated that on their recent LP natural majique, released May 27th.
Listening to “Steam Team,” track one of natural majique, I can’t help but be reminded of a video game soundtrack. And back when I was a kid and playing my Game Boy too however many hours a day, I would sometimes have to mute soundtracks because they were so bothersome. But the electronic intro of this song is just so catchy, enough so that surely they would never be muted. As the vocals are brought in, it’s becomes much more than some dope beat — the song emerges from it’s third minute as a multi-layered jam that proves all of this is just the beginning.
“Sweet Wife Life” follows with a similar motive. It’s fun and dancey and grows to become a deeper song as the seconds pass. The vocals seem to approach a threshold of intensity, but never take on an overpowering volume. “Mai Lai Wah” proceeds to offer a breather with its mellow vibe.
As you settle into natural majique, a feeling of laziness falls upon you. “Lofty Sundae” has an entrancing piano part that repeats throughout, dropping you into a seemingly never ending loop. “Palmas & Paradiso” breaks that spell with a chorus that requires you to sing along. Suprisingly, “Movin’ and Grovin'” isn’t a dance anthem but rather maybe the most unconventional track found on the record, filled with beeps and hums.
Perhaps “Seoul Fashion Show” and “One Of Every” best demonstrate the crescendo that most natural majique songs possess. By the end of each, there is so much going on but it’s never overwhelming. Synths, drums, vocals, more synths, more vocals, it all keeps piling on. It’s like a big heap of sound that is one addition away from toppling over, but currently sits beautifully balanced.
Son Step tagged this album under “sleepwalking” on Bandcamp, and a dreamy but awake state is the best I can do when trying describe the feeling it gives a listener. This might be most noticeable on closing track “Somehow,” which features John Swana. Close your eyes while listening to it and anything seems visible.
This past weekend I was listening to natural majique as I drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge into PA. And while my eyes were obviously not closed, Son Step was able to transport me to different places with their tunes. As the Philadelphia skyline dominated a clear blue abyss to my right, It dawned on me just how “majical” this record is, and that everyone in Philly should be aware of what these locals have created. Bravo, Son Step.
This week only, natural majique is available for streaming in its entirety on Son Step’s Bandcamp. Give it a listen, and if you are so inclined, buy it so you can listen forever.