A clog in the creative canal can constrict many musicians. Any artist, for that matter, must navigate boulders and board ups that would block the path to expression. In this context, the title of Craftal's latest release - Boxed In - may be misleading. Boxed In reaches out and embraces the broadest universe of patterns, textures, arrangements and sound designs to date. Anything but restricted, Craftal’s creativity darts out in dozens of directions across four glitch hop and halftime tracks.
This comes courtesy of Aquatic Collective - it being their lucky 13th release. This group of artists, originally inspired by the fact of the ocean is 95% unexplored, probes more terrestrial territory with Craftal. His music is grainy, in your face, and less, well, aqueous than their usual offering. The spirit of artistic exploration between two matches up one-to-one, though.
Precise, mechanized sound design is Craftal’s forte, and he flexes it over kinetic hip-hop and halftime beats. He first began sharing tunes four years ago, releasing a stream of singles, one EP, and a mix for Wormcast since. A series of exciting sounds appeared on “Coming Down the Hatch”, a quick spin of works-in-progress released almost one year ago. Surprisingly only one of those WIPs made the cut for Boxed In. This almost certainly signals that someone is sitting on a stash of unreleased songs. But what about the tunes that were released?
“Oscillopathic” and “Best Intentions” stand out, while “Alpha Bitsy” and the title track lay, not for lack of luster, in the cut. Our modus operandi is to always offer something diverse in sound design, but the sheer amount of differentiation in Craftal’s music sets it apart. One-off spectacular sounds that amaze then appear never again are common across the EP. The word and song “Alpha Bitsy” is applicable here, as Craftal’s grooves generally grow by stringing together many small bits and pieces of extraterrestrial sound.
“Boxed In” and “Oscillopathic” tread heavily through the low end as these bits traipse in the higher registers. The swamp pervading “Oscillopathic” is particularly moist and filthy. A high point arrives fifty-five seconds in when a scaly synthesizer syncopates for just a moment with the halftime drums and unlocks a mighty sway. But it's too brief. Maintaining this movement throughout the track could have made for a more addictive listen, but it’s a mighty and mind-blowing moment nonetheless.
Craftal, who hails from Boulder, Colorado, has ability on the oscillators that's difficult to deny. However, he’s only begun being booked to perform. Solasta Festival, Stilldream Festival and stops at Denver's Cervantes Other Side and Black Box form the bulk of his gigging resume. Intuition suggests this resume may grow in 2018 to the benefit of crowds everywhere that seek the squelch. In addition to a potentially unreleased trove, Craftal now has four more heaters from Boxed In to let rip when he does begin taking the stage more frequently. Stay chooned for that.