Written by Jahbril Cook
p.stmdrn is a California-based electronic artist whose work is characterized by smooth, ethereal instrumental loops. Since December 2013, he has released a prodigious ten full-length LPs, the first nine of which were purely instrumental records showcasing his beatmaking. His latest album, February’s X — stylized PXSTMDRN — is the first to layer rap vocals over jazzy, graceful instrumentals.
The twenty-seven tracks on X are each generally short, clocking the total runtime at around an hour. A few exceptionally succinct tracks — around 30-60 seconds each — intermingle with the longer, fuller remix tracks to make the LP feel deceptively like a compilation of tossed-off drafts and ideas, though this self-effacing front is a deliberate compositional choice by the artist.
Unlike the straightforward titling of his previous LPs, X’s track titles are highly stylized. The track “NXSTVLGIV[gr.wnvpp]” — presumably “NOSTALGIA[grown up]” — features a light, pretty synth-guitar and drum loops over a vocal track of Danny Brown’s “Grown Up.” The subject matter of the sample vocals and the mood set by the soft instrumentals combine to create the reminiscent theme that the title suggests.
Another recurrent theme of the album is the contrast created by mellow instrumentals paired with aggressive rap vocals. The airy, floating organ synth which opens “SXHVRD[$trtdrm$]” underscores a couple sampled verses from Nas’s hugely successful 90’s single “Street Dreams,” a poignant commentary on drug dealing as a necessity and an aspiration for kids growing up in the hood. While this track definitely presents a much different tone from Nas’s original song, p.stmdrn’s instrumental restyling successfully complements Nas’s vocal track, and the intention behind the lyrics is preserved.
Download X and listen to p.stmdrn’s other projects on Bandcamp.