On the spectrum of music that could, with absolutely no value judgment implied, be classified as "stoner electronica," the well-executed space jams of Elephant & Castle (aka Oakland's own David Reep) occupy a certain sweet spot: They're ambient and spare, to be sure, but not so downtempo they'll put you to sleep — and at the same time, they manage to be texturally interesting while never approaching the schizophrenic, relentless barrage of cool sounds-for-the-sake-of-cool sounds that, sadly, characterizes many acts in the genre. Most importantly, there's a real sense of movement and thoughtfulness to every track, of things starting and stopping and blooming and deepening in the space of a full song or even just a few bars, of every sample and synth being layered with a distinct sense of purpose (to evoke emotion, most often — there's a reason Reep's music is often described as melancholic).
Nowhere is this more apparent than on Reep's latest album, Transitions, due out next month. Take standout fifth track "En Memoria," which features tUnE-yArDs and makes the album worth a buy on its strength alone: It begins with a muffled, incomprehensible melody over a swamp of drippy synths, but before long, it's quietly morphed into a saltwater-soaked strings ballad, a calypso lullaby as reimagined by a full electronic orchestra, a glimmering atmospheric song, and back again, all with the expert control of an experienced producer. This is electronic music that's more concerned with affecting your mood than it is with blowing your mind, and it's a triumph. (Plug Research)