Like post-punk, post-dubstep (“poststep” for short) is a categorical fence for artists loosely tied by temporal and aesthetic similarities, an arena of music shaped almost solely by a singular tendency to bend, twist, and abandon the subgenre from which it takes its name. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint which musical box Nosaj Thing’s 2009 debut, Drift, properly belongs to, the album almost immediately garnered a canonical status among both the dubstep and IDM elite.
Over the three years since Drift’s release, Nosaj Thing (a.k.a. Jason Chung) has been collaborating, mixing, remixing, and producing at a dizzying pace. From remixes for Boris, Philip Glass, and Portishead to production work for Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi, Chung has shown himself to be as multifaceted as he is prolific. This laundry list of efforts seems to have stifled his solo output, however, as his new album, Home, feels like an afterthought, the sound of Chung’s craft diluted to the point where it’s barely there.
Like James Blake, Chung toys with empty space and sampled vocals on “Tell,” adding and subtracting color at just the right moments; the track’s chilled digital strings, whirling faux horns, and disintegrating moans intertwine to form an organic and satisfying balance. But the rest of Home is far too restrained, hushed to the point of static meaninglessness. The title track is an incongruent stream of Clams Casino-style cloud-rap beats and twinkling synth lines, while “Eclipse/Blue” finds Nosaj Thing layering Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino’s vocals over a toe-tapping, yet hackneyed, indietronica formula that sounds like the xx’s brand of bedroom music, only entirely devoid of its sensual charge and depth.
For an album that barely reaches a hum, it manages to end on even more of a whimper: The last two tracks, “Phase III” and “Light #3,” sound like B-sides that should never have made the cut. This is an album full of headphone music that isn’t enhanced by headphones, and club bangers that barely bang. The songs have little in common apart from mood, and they often end abruptly and unexpectedly; there’s no rhythm, like a DJ set that ignores common practice of proper BPM transitions.