Relaxer - Coconut Grove

  • Dreamlike, techno-adjacent dance floor tracks with a reflective bent.
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  • Daniel Martin-McCormick's music has always left space—for movement, for emotion, for breath. Since fully taking on the Relaxer name in 2017, he's let his art take up even more. He's never abandoned the twisted depth of his dubby club music as Ital, but his output as Relaxer lets out a deep sigh. Coconut Grove could broadly be described as techno, though he rarely burrows into its harsher grounds. Of course, there are shades of exceptions—weaving together different genres is one of Martin-McCormick's strengths. The only thing out and out ugly here is the alarming climax of "Cold Green." The anxious melody gradually swells into blaring sirens—making you wonder if the track had been that unsetting the whole time—before disappearing into the distance as it ends. "Um" also revisits this urgency with a synth signal that flashes, distorts and fades before getting too stressful. Martin-McCormick once compared his ideal music to an ecosystem. He told Will Lynch in 2016: "There's a space that I kind of imagined at one point, as I was beginning to make music as an adult. It was like an ecosystem of sound. A hissing, very humid mental landscape. I could hear the music I was making not just as layers of parts or instruments, but as an interacting ecosystem of sounds, the sounds pushing each other to create a breathing environment." He's landed in that sweet spot, as Relaxer, in Coconut Grove, which carries many strains of life working with and against each other in order to thrive. There's even "A Serpent In The Garden" in the form of the album's slithering, stunning opener. Its hurrying pace feels like you're trying to outrun something under the cover of bright moonlight. This Relaxer LP follows the project's only other full-length, the 2018 ambient and experimental cassette, A Family Disease. That record lives on in Coconut Grove's handful of soundscape interludes, which never feel too much like pacing tools. One such track, "Steeplechase," builds to the point where you suddenly notice the beat hasn't dropped and now need it to, but it doesn't feel like Relaxer's withholding. In another nod to past lives, Martin-McCormick puts his eerie yet smooth touch on vocal samples with "Born From The Beyond," which sounds like it's swirling inside a crystal ball. The appropriately titled "Breaking The Waves" hits on a similar soaring feel, sweeping you up in the gentle high-end breeze. The introspective, dreamlike finale, "Finally Forgetting," makes you wonder what Martin-McCormick's actually hoping to let go of when he wakes up. "I had the uncanny sense of discovering something quite old," he writes about the making of Coconut Grove. With a long history and body of work across genres and aliases, it's understandable he's been haunted by unrealized ideas—"Those visions never left me, and I've been dreaming of them in one way or another ever since," he says, and this album "[let] me start again from the beginning." It's no surprise those beginnings involved linking up in Washington, D.C. with the future Future Times family, which you can especially hear on "Finally Forgetting," from its flute-sounding melody to its rounded-yet-crisp percussion. In making Coconut Grove, Martin-McCormick seems at peace with those visions, though his wording is more extreme: "an exorcism, or maybe a rebirth" (likely the "Agony" of the penultimate cut). Here, Relaxer is finally comfortable in his music's ecosystem even when the landscape isn't.
  • Tracklist
      01. Serpent In The Garden 02. Flourescence 03. Cold Green 04. Born From Beyond 05. Steeplechase 06. Um 07. Breaking The Waves 08. Agony 09. Finally Forgetting