First of all, Spotify messed up. Spotify owes Pete Kember, aka Sonic Boom, an apology. The streaming service uploaded five of the album’s songs at half the speed. It was confusing for me at first, but as I knew how long the track lengths and album runtime was ahead of time, I figured something was up. However, other listeners who hadn’t done research may have listened to the broken stream just assuming there was nothing wrong. Even worse, people may have thought, understandably, that the album is shit before they realised there was some kind of error. There’s all sorts of weird moody sounds going on throughout the record, so for an outsider, three songs in, it wouldn’t be so surprising if a slow 15 minute track begins.
Anyway, rant over and Spotify, you are forgiven. Sonic Boom is undoubtedly one of the greatest producers of the past 10 years. His first full project as producer, MGMT’s Congratulations, just turned ten years old this month, and to this day it sounds fresher and more psychedelic than any current bands who claim to be exactly that. However, despite being his first major job, it is an outlier in Boom’s production. Congratulations sounds unlike anything else Kember has worked on.
In fact, MGMT’s self-titled record that was released years later sounds much more like Kember’s work, even though the producer had nothing to do with it. The wall to wall sound, drum loops, drowned out vocals. It’s almost as if MGMT continued to be influenced by Kember’s work in his band Spaceman 3. On Congratulations, there are loads of live instruments prominent in the tracks, there was little electronic tinkering going on, and it was a very early 90’s Flaming Lips record more than anything.
It’s the guy’s first album in thirty years, but that doesn’t mean he’s rough around the edges or lacking any experience. More than likely, if you’ve found this review, because let’s face it, this isn’t going to be the most clicked on post, it’s probably because the man has produced one, or maybe several, of your favourite records. As well as MGMT, he has produced records for Panda Bear and Beach House. All Things Being Equal is most like if 7, the album he recorded with Beach House, and Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper had a baby. It is repetitive in a therapeutic way, and the loops and patterns in the music become embedded in your brain. It is so tranquil.
The record is wall to wall sound. There isn’t much space or room to think. It is thick, gooey synthsizers and electronics. There aren’t any stand out tracks, but that’s because they all flow in to one another and wash over you. I mean, just look at the 8 minute lead single, “Just Imagine.” The first half of the record is better than the second half because it is long in the tooth. The first five tracks do some really interesting things and go to weird places I didn’t know music ever could but the second half tends to repeat the same tricks.
All Things Being Equal is a weird amalgam of all the bands Kember has produced for over the past ten years. It’s really interesting how a musician can be influenced by working with somebody who was first influenced by them. This album comes almost full circle, and that is where the record gets most interesting. It is so much fun to dissect the sounds and think which project he worked on influenced him to use each noise. Hopefully this has opened up the floodgates and Kember decides to work on more solo material.
Also, props to the artwork. Loving that aesthetic.