“The New Normal” by Rick Christian

From Edmonton, Alberta Canada, Rick Christian a relatively new electronic musician and visual artist makes a bold 2021 debut with his album “The New Normal”. A brisk listen less than 25 minutes, this powerhouse of moody ambient electronic, as well as some truly pulse-pounding synth-infused bops, perfectly captures the restlessness of the last year. It’s an emotional journey that sees Christian as a protagonist of sorts try to make sense of a world falling into chaos.

He sings of the want for an emotional and romantic partner (“the human race”), the startling way the world has locked down (“8 pm”), and a host of other topics that are bluntly about the pandemic (“Holiday in Covid”) but are also not bound to exist in this current moment we’re all stuck in. There’s a true universal quality that captures the darkness and doubt of living like the way most of us are right now, and even more impressively it doesn’t offer any easy answers or answers in general of how to cope. It’s open-ended enough to let you bring your own baggage to it as a sense of catharsis, but it’s also something one can enjoy from an objective point of view since so many of these beats and rhythms are just astounding. Kind of a throwback as you shouldn’t expect the now-standard electronic drops or dance beats even though there is a decent amount of those, but often with subversive lyrics or moments that steer into darker slower moments of introspection.

Christian has a subtle but impressive vocal range and the electronic almost robotic modification he applies only feels slightly distracting and unexpected at first, but as the record progresses you settle into it quite comfortably as it has this otherworldly feeling that almost feels like a robot inspecting humanity itself. The sterility that’s also present in the super crips production and some fantastic mixing that allows both the instrumentals and Christian’s voice to shine carries over to the mood the album is building as it feels like you’re standing in an observation deck of a ship or like the white room in 2001 A Space Odyssey. It’s almost unsettling in parts with how quiet and collected the record feels, like it’s harboring secrets as it gets progressively darker with tracks like the aforementioned “8pm” that almost feels like the prequel to a Cormac McCarthy book like “The Road” with the sense of lockdown and the bubbling unrest and questions of when will it end.

A lot of the songs can kind of be a slow burn and I did need a second to process it, but I kept finding myself drawn back to it and how it feels like such a wonderfully constructed mood piece that I can’t see burdened by time but it in it of itself will feel like an immaculate and cold memory of this harsh present we’re all being subjected to. Time will tell if Christian’s music will follow in these reactionary footsteps, but you’d be smart to journey with him either way.

Michael Rand

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