T’ien Lai’s Natures Vol. 1 is a kaleidoscopic experiment of electronic music that effortlessly blends genres to create an otherworldly listening experience. Despite a threadbare four track portion, Natures thoroughly utilizes the space it’s given with a dizzying range of genres and textures. T’ien Lai’s cherry picked aesthetics from house, dub, and new wave seem to come from a place of true admiration. Natures exemplifies the power of electronic music to create complex worlds through the marriage of seemingly disparate genres and methods.
Natures begins lightly like a curtain swaying in the breeze overlooking a tropical resort. “Dust Bath” samples a Bollywood tune over a consistent-yet-subtle house beat flanked by dubby bass. This first track’s subtle gaudiness evokes a sense of warmth and wealth. That wispy playfulness leaks into “Swords Out of Leaves” with reverb laden laughter. T’ien Lai’s momentum escalates as the song gradually mutates from a jaunty new wave feel to a kinetic, video gamey feel with heavy nods to Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra. This is the first time on the EP that time period and genre become apparent. In the span of two tracks, the band conjures vintage Bollywood, video game composition from early aughts, and a romanticized vaporwave eighties. These associations with time contribute to the kaleidoscope effect T’ien Lai masterfully commands, lulling the listener into a dreamlike state.
After leaving the weeds of the previous song, “Decorative Predator” bursts into the mix with groovy electronic basses and breezy synths that suddenly halt and give way to chaotic swirling pads and staccato robotic voices. Intimidating yet brightly colored like a parade float, the song lives up to its title. Although some sections of T’ien Lai’s songs are disparate and progressive, they feel cohesive and distinctly visual. When the penultimate track, “Animal City” kicks in, it feels bright and vaguely soothing, albeit glitchy and artificial. The last song quickly introduces a catchy club-ready hook with airy synths surrounding a chorus singing through a technicolor facade. It feels spacious yet claustrophobic. The latter half of the track takes elements from the earlier and amplifies them to an astonishing degree. Overdriven synth basses roll like tidal waves and a smoke machine fog of crisp vocals coat the top end of the mix until screeching to a halt.
In Natures Vol. 1, Tien L’ai conjures a myriad of influences to create a wonderfully progressive and challenging piece of electronic music. One of the band’s greatest strengths is their experimentation with genres, otherwise serving a utilitarian means, outside their original context to create a fresh tonic. By mixing various techniques from a swath of backgrounds, T’ien Lai made a soundscape that feels habitable and uncannily human.