Foreground Set’s latest EP, All Peak Run, is a beautiful blend of broken-down jazz, temporary funk, synthesizer-driven atmospherics, relaxing downtempo, and even a smattering of chiptune.
Norway-based Joar Renolen, the man behind the project, taps into the smooth vibes inherent on the jazz-house infusions of St. Germain, but adds to that some beats with staccato or malfunctioning qualities, and sometimes even a more straight-forward disco flare.
“Quickfix,” which features Fieh on vocals and is barely around for two minutes, has a hip-hop backbeat, atop which there’s ample space for chilling out as spacey synthesizer pads, chippy arpeggios, and synth leads fly around the mix. Fieh’s enchanting, heavily manipulated vocals fit in well with the overall celestial arrangement.
The title cut, and lead single, ebbs and flows between massive, washed-out synth blasts and horn stabs and more intimate icy crescendos, bolstered by fuzzy synth melodies. Beneath it all is a chunky guitar sample, a driving synthesizer-bass, and a sturdy disco beat.
On EP closer, “Aften,” the tender and tight drums seem to glue the arrangement in place. Caught in the adhesive are a pulsating array of instruments. The taffy-like horn, the plucky sitars, the fat synth-bass and repetitive guitars, along with everything else, seem to undo the laid-back nature of the first five songs by slowly creating a hypnotic breed of paranoia.
I write “seemingly” because what’s really happening is that the song is codifying all the contemplative, laid-back sentiment of the preceding tracks into a finely-tuned act of preparedness. You couldn’t just listen to a couple laid-back cuts and then jump back into the rat race. It would be jarring. “Aften,” then, is the necessary transition between realities.
Overall, All Peak Run is a particularly notable set. Although on its face it seems like it could just be great for coming down, there’s something deeper going on. The EP makes us part of Renolen’s experimental emotion machine, and we’re happy to be a part of it.