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Photay’s debut full-length Onism inherits the same historical tension in an age of climate change and social media addiction. It is also a reflection of personal conditions, a meditation on place, community, and its creator’s own embodied history. The word ‘onism,’ invented by John Koenig, means the frustration of being stuck in just one body that inhabits only one place at a time.
To grasp onism is to be apprised of how little of the world you have experienced, are experiencing, or will ever experience. Photay (Evan Shornstein) composed Onism in the heart of Brooklyn and shrouded by the silence of national parks or on trips home to the woodlands of the Hudson Valley in between touring the urban centers of foreign countries. Scattered but connected, Onism’s music is a constellation that rips across the night sky of time, charting an emotional reality defined by sadness and joy, dread and wonder.
Shornstein contrasts spacious near-silence with bombastic saturated peaks. Fangled robotic tones (‘Screens’) meet with forest floor ambience (’Storm’), evoking visual designs for the built and natural worlds, while the overwhelm of metropolis (‘Balsam Massacre’) and the digital age (‘The Everyday Push’) is eased by the liberatory forests of Woodstock (‘Outré Lux’ feat. Madison McFerrin) and assumptions into imagined realities (‘Bombogenesis’). The demonic swing of ‘Balsam Massacre’ imagines the sounds of a tree’s innards as it is felled with a chainsaw, while ’Storm’ thunders distantly in triumphant reverie.
On ‘Aura,’ Shornstein sings for the second time in his career (“Take the time to hear yourself”). The message hints at a common denominator to his meditations, resonating also as a warning to the world, an everyday push to the role of electronic music in storytelling the future of the global environmentalist movement.