C.J. Davis’ Harrowgrove project has been steadily dropping music for a few years now, drawing from industrial, alternative R&B, trip hop, and more. It’s taken on many forms since its inception, but with Davis’ guiding hand, each release has maintained the nocturnal, occasionally creepy quality that makes Harrowgrove what it is. His newest full length, CAPS LOCK, is no exception.
Instead of demonstrating a radical transformation in sound, this latest batch of tracks opts for a more careful refinement of Harrowgrove’s last effort, 2016’s The Chandelier in The Room EP. Opener “Parasite In Progress” kicks things off to sparse, tense start as Davis sings politically charged lines like, “you won’t be happy til I’m swinging from your tree.” It’s followed by the previously shared, equally tense “3AM// The Descent”, then undercut by the gentle, nostalgic ballad “As Gentle As You Are”. It’s a surprisingly serene moment for the project, but since this is Harrowgrove we’re talking about, the peace doesn’t last long.
The tracks that follow demonstrate the album’s greatest strength, its sound design. The glitchy drums and synth patches that pop-up all over this thing always sound unique to the track on which they appear, but they never stray too far moody tones at the album’s center. With its distorted snare stabs and metallic piano leads, “Shelter & It’s Many Shadows” is easily a highlight of this form, but CAPS LOCK isn’t all programmed beats and keyboards. Both electric and acoustic guitar make appearances, most notably on the longest track “Wool Over Eyes (Free Will)”, providing a welcome textural break from the largely mechanized world of the album.
After a noisy, unsettling interlude in “Sunrise”, we get the only caps-locked title on the tracklist with “HARD PUNCHER”. While it’s not as intense as you might expect, its danceable beat and falsetto hook does ensure it’s one of the catchiest moments on the record. Davis “caps things off” (forgive me) with the airy “Stay Away From The Water,” ending things even more sparesly than they began. For a producer with this much mastery over studio trickery, though, it’s these moments of restraint that show how much he’s matured.