Slinking out of the darkness with a menacing sonic scowl that extends from our speakers and into the air around us effortlessly, there’s no stopping the deluge of tension behind “The Rearrangement” once pressing play on this selection from the tracklist of Electric E’s Sight Unseen. Released this year to a warm reception from critics and fans the same, Sight Unseen toys with classical harmonies (“Situational Sangria,” the industrialized “China Doll (Vocal – Take Me In Your Dreams)”), supersized R&B grooves (“I Don’t Take Any Pleasure (Hated Was Not a Word)”) and even allusions to a noise influence in this artist’s sound somewhat undetectable prior to now (“The Rearrangement (Vocal – Urban Minstrels),” “Memory Lane,” “World of Mirrors”), and regardless of you interest in eclectic music, it’s certain to leave you interested in this player’s sound.
“Down by the Sea” and “Timelessness” are probably the most versatile compositional efforts included in Sight Unseen, but relative to the streamlined “China Doll” and “Maria,” they don’t bite off more than this songwriter can chew within the context of the recording studio. He’s very confident in every movement he gives up here; swagger affects any interpretation of the mood in “Around the Night” much as it does “Situational Sangria (Vocal – Come Down),” and anyone who keeps up with the dispatches of an ever-changing alternative electronica underground will instantly recognize how unique a feature this is to find. The gloom of an ambient surrealism is nowhere to be found – in its place, we find the same cerebral framework with almost none of the pessimistic overtones (sonic and surface-level the same).
In addition to Sight Unseen, Electric E’s new extended play Ella is making a critical ripple effect in and outside of the northwest scene this musician calls home, and even the most cursory of listening sessions spent with its four-song tracklist will make it clear what all of the fuss has been about. In “Again and Again,” we’re getting what feels like a straightforward post-punk performance littered with a noisy, neo-ambient ethereal sound that some might be quick to attribute to a Patton Thomas or Patrick Ballard influence. It’s obvious a great deal of the Seattle underground has had a profound impact on this sound when listening to “Got to Have It” or either version of the title cut, and I don’t think you need to be a professional critic like myself to appreciate this element of the Electric E persona.
2020 has been a good year for experimental enthusiasts, and while I won’t say that either of these records fall in with any specific underground movement at the moment, I do think they stand out in a crowded Seattle indie talent pool just the same. This is an interesting and transitional period for a lot of the country’s most iconic indie circuits, but with artists like Electric E keeping things interesting, I think northwest alternative fans should rest easy knowing the next decade should be as exciting as the last was.