Best Albums of 2019: Lemongrass Music

In Sight (Lemongrass)
Muffled Dreams e.p. (Lemongrass)

Lounge and cafe music ala Cafe Del Mar is probably the most enduringly popular subgenre of ambient sounds, and consequently the most crowded. That means plenty of music that’s either unexciting or pure dross, but every year I’m happy to keep sorting the wheat from the chaff because I know I’ll find gems like these. Lemongrass Music owners Roland and Daniel Voss always makes room for a few releases like this on his label each year, making peeps like me very happy even if confounding the expectations of those used to the label’s more familiar chillout fare.

Croatian artist Hatar’s debut album In Sight shows an artist whose love for the genre’s motifs is obvious, yet there is a progressive edge that raises it well above just being pleasant. The Moog-like siren melody on “Toque De Amor” is pure delight. “Dejalo En Paz” is a brilliantly hypnotic piece of stripped-back lounge with marimba and trumpet notes bouncing off each other over a humming bassline. There’s lots of smokey trip hop and a dash of stoned house. The album is full of smart and soulful touches that breathe fresh life into the genre once again.

Similarly fresh but a little darker is the cinematic Muffled Dreams e.p. by Spaniard Carlos Butler aka Rildrim, who’s been active in electronica since 2009. It’s lounge, but on first listen I was immediately struck by how unpredictable the details were. And so it turns out that he’s actually in a mission to avoid the lazy over-repetition that so easily comes with loops, striving for a more natural and irregular quality within the boundaries of his moody, shimmering Balearic lounge sound. He succeeds completely; Muffled Dreams has the warmth and melody of classic Balearic chillout, yet up close it’s curiously experimental.

Best Albums of 2019 Reviews Index

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