Album Review: Kentaro Derry – Picturesque EP

[Self-released; 2021]

There’s a moment in Autechre’s “Rae”, off of the duo’s untitled fifth studio album (better known as LP5), where everything just feels so perfectly balanced between the nervous rhythm of the drums and the reasoned caution of the synth melody, which persists even as the drums begin to function as though they’re the egg frying in the ‘This Is Your Brain on Drugs’ PSA.

Toronto producer and Western University engineering student Kentaro Derry too understands how to bring different tones and moods to the same sonic vanishing points. Derry’s Picturesque EP, released earlier this month as a sequel to his Serenity EP from last year, is sonically sophisticated but playful all the same. Derry builds the tracks piece-by-piece, consistently renovating without compromising the foundation.

For example, take how the two-minute opener “Dawn” gradually expands, with sustained chords and a synth bass motif that adds weight, which is alleviated by a running water sample and a dose of drums and strings. Even if quantizing has occurred, nothing feels rigid. A sudden beat switch on the formerly stately “Fluorescence” brings out the arpeggiator as rhythms briefly ignite, only to fade and introduce the demure “Dusk,” which soon becomes psychedelic and regal. I imagine a Young Nudy freestyle on top of this track and its many zigzags. And like the rest of Picturesque, it still feels substantial as an instrumental.

The more I listen to Picturesque, the more I find to appreciate, not only in how Derry utilizes sound but also in how the productions show influence without being obvious. The spiraling melody briefly butting into closing track “Midnight” is like a sophisti-pop gathering briefly crashed by a prog convention, and everyone happily makes room for each other. In just over 12 minutes, Derry brings you through a whole 24-hour period, and you might very well make a Groundhog Day out of it.