Electronic music is a strange love. I grew up listening to Spanish music that featured mariachi bands, acoustic guitars, and güiras. Later, rock music took hold with its electric guitars and drum sets. Live instruments were, and still are, the thing that I gravitate toward when I want to lose myself in a song. So the idea that parallel to that, electronic sounds in dance music captivates my attention gives me pause. That a machine, or machines rather, can produce sounds that I listen to over and over again is something that fascinates me.
Enter WYM. Self-described “one-man electronic band,” the artist formerly known as Bjorn revels in the synthetic. With his debut record, After Moon, and a new name, the direction of the music changed, but it is still rooted in dance music.
In my top picks of 2014 blurb for After Moon, I mentioned that this album was the perfect thing to play after the party was over. That’s not true. If you want to relax, meditate, or sleep, this isn’t the place. What Wym has done here is change the common relaxation ideal.
There are moments of dream-pop and shoegaze (“Moon River,” “Light Years,” and “Again”), but the pace quickens within the body of the album. From “Trying” and “If I Were Yours” on, After Moon is a collection of neo-disco, trance progressive and dream-pop made to inspire movement. In “If I Were Yours,” the naive romanticism of the lyrics (the closest I’ve ever seen English lyrics reach aegyo) is set against a soothing synth backdrop that blooms into a punchy dance number.
The what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up speech song “Where Are We Going” builds from a simple drone and drums structure into an up-tempo ditty that sets your mind dreaming of the possibilities. If you want to relax after a party, After Moon accomplishes that by having songs with enough exuberance to slowly burn off that energy without an immediate crash.
Having said all that, what keeps me coming back to this album is WYM himself. He’s in full control of the album’s creation and I’m awed by the execution. When he released “Empty Desire,” he manipulated his voice to compliment the propulsive beauty of the track. In his incarnation as WYM, his voice is clearer, a great choice since the production of the new material pairs well with his small voice. You don’t need to sing to the rooftops to get the message across, something made clear in “Falling Under Blue Sky.” The album’s sequencing is also of note.
Starting with “Outro” says something happened here, but it isn’t worth your time to know what. Having “Empty Desire” come after “Where Are We Going” with its last line, “What do I desire?” is the only way the former fits in the album proper; anywhere else and it’s the obligatory pre-release single put into the record. After all this simulated noise, “New Day, Pt. 2” ends with birds chirping. As strange as it was to hear, the choice to include it makes sense. After Moon is the record after the night is over, dawn is about to break and the world slowly comes back to life. That Wym could create an album like this, with all its complexities, as his debut, is an achievement and a sign of his talent.
Stepping out as WYM, Bjorn has come out with a side I didn’t expect, coming from the writer and producer of the bombastic “Empty Desire.” Keeping with dance music, After Moon is the record that brings you down gently. There are still moments of restlessness that’ll prevent complete tranquility, but if you’re anything like me, meditation isn’t calm. WYM’s After Moon is a dance music interpretation of serenity, one where movement and beats, whether slow or fast, can be its own form of peace.