H+

Northern Transmissions review of 'H+' JB Dunckel
'H+' JB Dunckel

Our Rating

8.0/10

As Air seems to have quietly fizzled out creatively, JB Dunckel has decided to step up where his band left off in energetic fashion. Through electronic and intergalactic aesthetic, Dunckel creates a world that sounds like sci-fi while discussing topics that barely feel out of our own possible future. While this record is definitely be more of a slow and heady listen for the most part, you will be rewarded the more you indulge it.

Dunckel leads with massive pop energy as the album opens on the triumphant energy of “Hold On” through emotional piano and trippy production. The constant build of energy does leave the song a from feeling truly satisfying at the end but the brilliant writing makes up for it a lot. “Love Machine” dives further into Dunckel’s world, as he fully immerses you in the range of its electronic mystery. Here however, Dunckel guides listeners through the underlying subtleties in his sound to make the sonic trip all the more fruitful.

“The Garden” waves up and down with spacey atmosphere, truly finding the middle point between entrancing pop and enigmatic scores. As tones of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” ripple through the song’s DNA, Dunckel’s hopeful tale of personal serenity feels like a blissful look to an alternate future. The buzzing bass of “Transhumanity” breathes life into the idea of evolution that Dunckel proposes, as we move from our own simple lifestyles. Through the lush production it’s easy to get lost in the swirl of sounds and drift between verses and choruses in an almost too seamless flow.

There’s a mesmerizing harmony to “Qwartz” that takes on a more cosmic energy as the song moves on, emulating parts Flaming Lips and Elton John. This extended interlude feels ripped right out of seventies sci-fi and creates a more romantic idea of what space could sound like. “Slow Down” rides its aesthetic with a heavy hand, as it slowly floats down from note to note. Though there’s a real weight to each of Dunckel’s key changes in the song, the track really feels like the most meandering on the album.

“Space Age” however explores the more intergalactic qualities of Dunckel’s sound in great detail, as his delightfully digital energy transforms. As slow-burning as the track is, each break really fills the song with colour and a surprising roar of beauty. The off-kilter piano of “In Between Two Moons” may seems weird at first, but slowly fits the track’s sense of conflict as it moves on. Hearing the bass really kick up with the percussion and sonic solos flying every which way, you can really feel a sense of freedom in Dunckel’s writing even more than before.

While the similar piano crawls can feel a bit more tiresome on “Show Your Love” it’s wondrous how Dunckel seems to merge the worlds of Daft Punk and Pink Floyd while never feeling derivative. This electronic psychedelia is full of warmth and brings an amazing sense of wonder to the record. A slow and brooding swell of synths starts to meander on “Ballad Non Sense” but it truly opens up in its final moments. Rushes of bells and the powerful keyboard work really saves the song’s more free flowing energy.

One of the real gems of the album however is “Carpet Bombing” as the frantic bubbles of electronics make the grooves really come alive. More than any other song on the record, Dunckel really lets his funky side out for the album’s most dance-oriented jam. From here on out Dunckel embraces rhythm even more freely as he moves to even more dynamic arrangements in the drums and melodies. This more verse-chorus rush is exhilarating this far into the album and really feels like a release in its own right. Though “I Can Hear In Colors” steps back away from this somewhat disappointingly, its emotive writing keeps it fresh.

Words by Owen Maxwell