When Robert West (aka Bobby Blessed aka Erothyme) began making music 16 years ago, he was a young boy in high-school with big ideas and enough training in music theory to begin making the ideas real. Swimming through classic synths, constant field recordings, a soulful and life-giving funk, and effervescent beauty that is all his own, he developed his sound over some 13 albums. Releasing nearly all of his music on his own Bandcamp, he serves as an inspiration to many; a self-made artist who never compromised his vision for popularity, financial simplicity, or the aesthetics of the time. His seminal Sound in the Living Current (2015), an epic tale of connection and grace that catapulted his artistry into the stratosphere, is so replete with softness and thematic unity that his unique style was able to express itself with ease. The Erothyme project is more than just a dance music act, it's a whole universe of glitches, angelic voices, tightly layered samples, and worshipful reverence to the beauty of existence. His small but devoted following loves him not only for his musical works but for the person it reflects; the Bobert (an affectionate nickname) is so regularly bowled over by the majesty of creation that his soul cries out to make people dance in joy and wonder, and the “tender-hearted charm” of his sets and indeed his personality fills his audience with feelings as warm and fuzzy as his groovy synths.
The latest endeavor, Along the Arc, is further from a concept album than we've seen Erothyme release in LP format, perhaps ever. It's also the most obviously understood of his releases as a dance music release, with only one track, “Vibr808”, serving as an interstitial piece not clearly intended for dancefloors, likely because all these self-release “high art” compositions have left poor Bobby with scant few bookings to feed himself. Despite this, the Erothyme project sacrifices no authenticity; ever the self-made man, Along the Arc is available on for free on his Bandcamp, features all the same sounds he's pioneered and made his own, and has a structure and continuity that allows one to engage with the album on its own terms. Not simply a collection of his most “banger-ific” material, the use of simple things like a descending twinkling arpeggios or a clarifying breath unifies tracks from one to the other, and create a reflection of one another across the album. Even the album description on Bandcamp has a nifty little text art piece that reflects the albums ebb and flow of energy across the tracks and the sound waves that compose them. Bobby is just as grandiose here with the Erothyme project as he ever was, but now with more thump.
The aspect which flourishes the most within the structure of the album is the subdivision that breaks the beat on tracks like “Maui Mindfunk” and “You Been Sleeping” - ever idiosyncratic, his more fast-paced moments of choppy samples, stuttered vocals, or all-out sound design insanity are reminiscent of both a powerful dance music wizard and an indie electronica connoisseur, a colorful combination seen far too rarely in computer music. “Truthful Trustfall” and “Psyche Rising” both have a firm sense of drum and bass, keeping pace with the rhythm while engaging with natural instruments like bird song. “Adorbitable” balances its subdivided notes with an growing boom and clap that seems to create a reverb-laden atmosphere of fuzz, but never becomes too aggressive to distract the listener from its distinctive breaks.
Another powerful trait of Along the Arc is the funky synth lines that have been the main feature in Erothyme sets for so long. Developed through his long history with piano and his constant cleaving to inspired improvisation, tracks like “SynchroNIFTY” and “Rhythm Sanctified” will have longtime fans squealing with joy. “Leap Across” plays with both the most soulful and furious of his funk emotions, sustaining itself magnificently across an epic 5-and-a-half minute runtime, peaking in its final gasps like a bright, burning flare before settling back into a vocal echo chamber, steadily handing the baton to the rippling bass of “Truthful Trustfall”. Bobby has the funk (he is, in fact, a soul) and considers it part of the project’s roots, but rarely does he release it on album material – previously it had only been the main feature on the EPs Four Weird Tracks Record Labels Hate and Inner Space Overhaul, and occasionally on the brilliant compilation of odds and ends called Bobby Steps.
What makes the Erothyme project unique is not just the constant use of his field recorder and sound design chops to innovate novel sonic elements, nor is it his slavish devotion to the delicate beauty of his aesthetic, nor even his cheerful and relatable conversation when at a gig and his connection with his fans. The unlikely synchronicity of all these traits is rare, to be sure, but what pushes Bobby over the edge into a territory all his own is the sheer emotional strength of his music. You can feel the forest, see the sky, hear the river, because he believes in the emotional power of these things. You can sense the tender openness in his voice, casual in “Vibr808” and affected in “You Been Sleepin”. You can embrace the aching, worshipful perspective expressed through melody and pulsing sub-bass, and be moved, even to tears. One of the most meaningful artists I have ever met, nobody holds a candle to Bobby's Erothyme project, both in terms of personal, audible growth and refusal to compromise the central ideals of his artistry. It is his, and his alone, and we are the lucky ones who get to know about him and dance in the soft glow of his light. Along the Arc is a well-thought move designed to extend both his performance career and his release catalogue to new heights, satisfying old fans and making new ones for a potent new year of growth. Long live the Perpetual Victory Machine!