PREMIERE: Dream Safari emerges from the night with the jazzy new Cobalt EP

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Dream Safari | photo courtesy of the artist
Dream Safari | photo courtesy of the artist

Philly’s own Dream Safari is back with a new bundle of tunes, the electro-pop outfit’s first since their inaugural Night Howl from 2013. But this time around, Dream Safari mastermind Chris Coulton has moved away from what he describes as the “jungle-y” sounds of the past. On the new three track EP Cobalt, Coulton has produced an assortment of jazz-infused sounds with the smoothest of saxophones.

Coulton says the name Cobalt is meant to induce the feelings of nightlife.

“Some of the sounds, especially the feature of saxophone on each song, are there to paint a mental picture of a city nightscape with a yellow moon hanging above it, like something you’d see on a smooth jazz album cover from 1994. To me, the sky looks perfectly cobalt just before turning into black and it’s that sweet spot of evening where I picture my tracks being played.”

This imagery stems from Coulton’s work in Philly’s nightlife scene, something that’s been the focus of his work for the past two years. He started Space Jams at The Barbary, which has grown into a major success as a two-floor “’90s party staple.” Along with the help of Paul Casper of Cheerleader and Cameron Shryock of Maxine & Cleo, Coulton was able to start Nightworks, the first monthly DJ night Ruba Club ever saw.

Perhaps the peak of Coulton’s nightlife work came last summer when he and his team were approached by Voyeur Nightclub to begin work on a massive project. With full set design, six DJs, and visual curation, they created a three-floor monthly production at the venue.

It’s from these project that Coulton found reason to get back to dormant projet Dream Safari.

“The deeper you dig, the more strangeness and seediness you find,” Coulton says. “There is an underbelly there that to me, doesn’t exist in making music. To me, Dream Safari is the purest thing I do because I don’t care if anyone likes it — I just really hope they do.”

That hope is most likely to be fulfilled. In the combination of beats that surely take root in Coulton’s DJ side of life and the seductive sax work of Max Swan, Dream Safari has found a pairing that coincide as if they were made for each other. Opening track “Dynasty” wastes no time in presenting this idea as it is throws it all at you from the very beginning. Before 20 seconds have passed you’ve already been immersed in tight beats and a silky sax/piano accompaniment. “Temple” follows up with a more relaxed and dreamy sound. To conclude, “Hundred” offers the most dance-inducing vibe, with that more rhythmic vibe of the past still lingering.

“Make me able to get back to where I know,” says Coulton on the final song’s chorus. It’s fair to say that Dream Safari is more than just “back.”  On Cobalt, an emphasis on bass, drums, and saxophone has led them to evolve into something richer than the synth-loaded sounds of years past. Coulton says production tips from the likes of CRUISR’s Andy States (who created the EP’s artwork) and Spice House Sound’s Alex Santilli (who mastered the EP) have helped him learn a lot. Whatever might have changed for Coulton over the years, one fact remains: he and Dream Safari have emerged from the night, and it sure is nice to have them back.

Dream Safari headlines Bourbon & Branch next Friday, July 8th. Playing in support are Power Animal and The Undercover Dream Lovers. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. 

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