Review: Brothertiger – Vision Tunnels EP

Vision Tunnels EP by Brothertiger (2010, self-released)

Since its inception last summer, the term “chillwave” has predictably divided artists and music lovers the way most newly coined subgenres do.  Like the emo and shoegaze forerunners of the past, the crowd is split between those who denounce the word and those who embrace it.  John Jagos, whose stage name is Brothertiger, likely falls in the latter category; last month he told the nightdrive blog, ” I’d definitely be interested in another chillwaver to remix one of my songs!”  And his move from Ohio to Brooklyn appropriately serves to support the argument: Jagos knows his sound, his influences, and his audience.

That’s not to say, however, that Brothertiger’s debut EP is just another chillwave album.  The elements are all there, sure – hazy vocals, synth pop tendencies, and steady dance beats encompass Vision Tunnels.  But a key distinction remains after these five beach-ready tracks – Jagos effortlessly progresses the ever-changing sound in his own way, utilizing 80’s new wave and early 90’s pop in a low-key style largely untouched by his peers.  Washed Out and Active Child come to mind, but so do breezy, laid-back Pet Shop Boys and slow Annie Lennox tunes.

While the music is intentionally lazy, Brothertiger wastes no time on solely one melody, jumping around the keyboard and sneaking in layers as he goes.  A bleary, skipping synth and faint vocals support opener “Summer House,” and a Cure bass line is the focus for “You’re Afraid.”  The build, while never anticlimactic, is not overbearing or harsh-sounding; he simply leads us to the fade out, keeping a constant state of relaxation.

Contemporaries tend to centralize the beat, but Brothertiger generally buries it in favor of the overall calm mood.  The result is simultaneously bouncy and nonchalant, as if the intention is for you to sway rather than shake.  Soft hissing sounds permeate the title track alongside a chorus of Jagos’ lush multi-dubbed voice.  The best is saved for last – “Lovers” is a brilliant pop gem, encompassing the best elements of newcomers How To Dress Well alongside classic work like “Bizarre Love Triangle” or “Domino Dancing.”

It’s hard not to describe Brothertiger as a chillwave artist – other similar terms like “dream pop” or “synth pop” just don’t cut it.  That said, Vision Tunnels progresses the style in an uncanny, and unfortunately ignored, fashion.  While the superstars have sampled and boogied their way to notoriety, Jagos is as quiet as his music, slowly building a slight transformation that fits well, but is wholeheartedly distinct.  And when the fray longs for a break from the hipster dance floor, slow and steady will win the race.

Rating: 7

Brothertiger – Lovers

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