…jook ’til i die is evaboy’s grandest work, directing his nostalgia-bred sounds toward the future rather than indulging in rehash.
As it currently continues to stand, rather unfortunately, nostalgia is a hot commodity in today’s society. Existential longing for one’s past has shaped an entire decade’s worth of cinematic universes, remakes, reboots, and retreads, all comforting a generation of adult children into believing that the art they once cherished during pubescence is definitely still as flawless as they once remembered it. But to most semi-self-aware sentient beings, this is rarely ever the case with the vast majority of once-treasured media from the past. Part of this has to do with memory and perception, and the ways these two forces intersect with personal taste and growth relative to a specific moment in time; in this respect, one of the grand mistruths of this commodification is the line about “if you were growing up during [insert year here], you had to have seen this,” which asserts that certain properties have a universal appeal to everyone of a certain age group — a flawless argumentative strategy from PR firms for why we need a new Ghostbusters or Star Wars every decade or so now. Nostalgia, then, if properly conceptualized, should take on a more idiosyncratic nature, one more fluid with personal understanding than with grand public appeal. And one should also understand that the vague impression of what one remembers from these assorted pieces of media is what should constitute this sentimentality, not the original work wholesale.
Enter Brandon Lowe aka evaboy, who’s been uploading music to Bandcamp since 2013, and who’s been raised on and heavily influenced by the ultimate remembrance apparatus: mid-2000s internet culture, an amalgamation of anime aesthetics, Playstation-era rendered cinematics, and early rave soundscapes. With his latest and most accomplished album yet, ...jook ’til i die, he appropriates and re-contextualizes a variety of popular hits from his youth — he hasn’t revealed his official age, but if the songs selected here provide any indication, one could venture a guess that he’s in his mid-to-late 20s — alongside a diverse array of genre stylings, shifting between hardcore breakbeat, 2-Step, nightcore, and, as the title semi-alludes to outside of the dance, Chicago Juke. In a sense, he’s pursuing what Nicolas Jaar accomplished under his Against All Logic moniker a few years back — except he’s lacking the critical shield of “respectability” with the samples selected, the only thing holding this back from further critical recognition. Starting with the obscure, voice-controlled PS2 video game Lifeline — emphasizing the all-forgotten human element of most of these enterprises — Lowe wastes no time tearing through the likes of Akon, Jeremih, M.I.A., Drake, Lil Jon, and Future, building on their sonic foundations whilst also acknowledging their cultural contributions to long-standing pop traditions. He clearly has deep affection for these tunes, and isn’t selecting their voices for purely ironic purposes, and while they all exist within a once popular lexicon, none would seriously argue any of these are “generation”-defining visions (okay, well maybe “Birthday Sex”).
But it’s the small curveballs peppered in along the way that produce the richest results, like how he turns Lil Dicky’s absolutely unlistenable and annoying “Cocaine” into the far more melodic and texturally rich “Never Even Done,” or how he chipmunks Denzie’s vocals from Monsta Boy’s “Sorry” and sends that UK garage staple into a heightened emotional frenzy. Indeed, each track on ...jook ’til i die serves as a testing ground for this type of untapped creative potential, building a rich dialogue between mentors and mentee, one that retains this high level of enthusiasm throughout its considerable 70-minute length, a usual death-blow for high-energy events such as these. This principle is reinforced on the pathos-driving closer, one that also serves as the supposed death of the evaboy alias — from the hands of DJ GAPE, a YouTube shitposter who may or may not be Lowe as well — and combines the past (a blown-out rendition of T2’s “Heartbroken,” the originator of the “bassline mania” movement) with the present (Charli XCX’s “Forever”) into a tapestry of tear-jerking footwork. Even utilizing a sample this contemporaneous seems to suggest that the things we currently cherish will one day soon begin to recede into the far recesses of our memories — a notion that more people, inclined like evaboy, should graciously accept.
Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2021 | Part 3.