Over the past few years, the prolific Florida-based musician and visual artist Tristan Whitehill has had his eyes on the sky. The music that he makes as Euglossine—which has popped up on tastemaking experimental imprints like Orange Milk, Phinery Tapes, and Beer on the Rug—is weightless and uplifting, billowing upwards on the backs of glittery guitar lines and satiny synth sequences. Each lithe melody is like a hit of fuel in a hot air balloon, pushing his pieces further into the low-oxygen zones in between crust and space.
Coriolis, his new album due out on Hausu Mountain on February 15, explores some similarly gravity-defying spaces. Throughout the record’s 10 tracks, Whitehill more or less floats, tracing loopy melodies like lysergic contrails across a sky of swooning synthesizers. Some of the packaging around the sounds makes this metaphor explicit. The cover features abstract cumulus shapes bleeding across an impossibly blue background; there is a song called, simply, “Cloud Bop.” As Whitehill explains via email, this isn’t an accident.
“The sky always to me is a metaphor for potential,” he says. "I want everyone to be free and I want my music to exist with you, where you can take this potential idea and make it your own space to think and draw. I listen to a lot of music that plays with this idea, and it’s very healthy for my creativity to be with art that allows me to explore myself and my environment without boxing me in."
It’s not ambient music exactly that he’s made here—there’s too many moving parts and engaging melodies and upward momentum to fit a purist’s definition—but the effect is similar. There’s a lot of light and space in between these high-flying melodies, each seemingly designed to offer a place for imagination and contemplation. If you are the type of person who might find Sonic’s Green Hill Zone a good place for meditation, there’s plenty here to lose yourself in.
Whitehill says that the seeds of Coriolis came together when he was living with a pair of other musicians, Sunmoonstar and Jack Edmondson, who all had a lot of gear lying around and were in the process of re-exploring some of the music their parents loved. He got deep into Phil Collins demos and the wheezy boogie tracks of the Estonian producer Uku Kuut, and got inspired to change up his workflow a bit. “I really wanted to actualize these old songs (some of which like “Naturalist” are 10 years old) I had written like my roommates had been doing at the time,” he says. “Before I had been using sequencers to compose mainly and then add physical instrumentation on top, but this method of finishing my old ideas with my hands felt right.”
That approach brought a new elasticity and light to the sorts of melodies Whitehill plays around with. The aforementioned “Naturalist,” has these springy guitars, tensely coiled bass work, and slowly shifting synthetics in the margins that constantly feel ecstatic and surprising. The title track features these whirling melodies that collapse and curl around one another in this hallucinatory way. It’s carefully plotted, but distinctly human—a reminder that the miracle of flight is achievable by human hands.
Truthfully, I have had a hard time listening to music so universally light and airy as the world has become more stressful. It’s easy to imagine a world in which fusion-y, watery, earnest music like this would be easy to reject. But something about Coriolis feels optimistic in a relatable way. Slippery as it is, there’s a desperation to it, as if you’re goosing the throttle, just hoping you have enough fuel to make it safely back to land. You’re soaring, but only for a moment.
“I really think my best self is a sweet whimsical person,” Whitehill writes. “This sweetness is hard to reckon with in a cyber hell-scape dystopian 2019. I appreciate the dark vibes as well and love catharsis, doom, and grief in art, but I needed to share these feelings of optimism.”
So for now, listen to Coriolis and fly on. Make your graceful loop-de-loops while ye may.