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Rostam’s masterpiece debut album Half-Light impresses

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Rostam Batmanglij has become an important hidden force in the music industry, collaborating on projects like Frank Ocean’s Blonde and co-producing HAIM’s latest album Something To Tell You. Batmanglij was vital to creating the world-influenced sound of his former band Vampire Weekend, producing all three of their records and winning a Grammy for the 2013 album Modern Vampires of the City.
With so many collaborations under his belt, a solo album felt long overdue. However, Rostam’s debut Half-Light comes at the perfect time. It is a collection of mature songs performed with the confidence of a well-seasoned veteran, executed in such a way that convinces the listener this is a record to pay attention to.
The opening song “Sumer” begins with an ethereal choir backed by minimalistic percussion and Rostam’s voice narrating a summer storm that collects outside his window. As the song progresses, Rostam invites snare drums and harpsichords into the mix to build a piece of music that becomes deeply mystical and fantastic. Before concluding, he allows the song to withdraw into fading sonic moments that underlie his arpeggiating voice. It is a powerful opening that hints at the diversity of the remaining 14 tracks.
Rostam allows his infatuation with classical music show in songs like “Thatch Snow” and “Gwan” which feature string arrangements that support his bright melodies and bounce in a similar fashion to “M79” off of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album. The tasteful hand percussion and ascending string tones of “Wood” make it a highlight, as it adds to the Middle-Eastern feel of the record and displays some of Rostam’s dreamlike lyricism.
While much of the album is a progression from styles he has experimented with in the past, the song “When” closes with a layered, pitch-shifted, and distorted spoken word section of politically-charged dialogue and intricate rhythm. Rostam sounds almost extraterrestrial here, which beautifully corresponds with the themes presented in the track “EOS,” where he sings, “along the coast we could see time and space, all across the water it was all emptiness… and I could feel the hereafter out in front of us both.”
Track 11 “Rudy” is one of the album’s finest, opening with a reggae-driven groove reminiscent of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Rostam then adds in laid-back harmonies and narrates a story about a boy named Rudy who was born on the night of a “great thunderstorm” and was “not like other boys.” The song quickly spirals into a chorus of unpredictable saxophone licks, simultaneously played together to create an organized element of woodwind chaos that occasionally breaks into relieving harmonies. It is one of the most tense moments on the record, but its balance of both spontaneity and intricate orchestration work to transition into the second half of the song, which is just as beautiful as the first.
Half-Light is unique from any project Rostam has ever worked on.

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Rostam’s masterpiece debut album Half-Light impresses