While electronic music used to be a rather exclusive club that only those with access to (expensive) equipment could hope to break into, in recent years, the increased availability of technology has allowed anyone with a will and/or a way to become an electronic producer. Theoretically, this has enabled more talented people to express themselves through music, and there is for sure some interesting, musically-accomplished work being produced, but it seems more and more like the market is simply being flooded with mediocrity.
Enter Hasta, the electronic music project of 18-year old Norwegian Thomas Wesenlund Wahl. Having put together a string of remixes and his first (admittedly, auspicious) original track “Tropical Nintendo” earlier this year, Wahl was perhaps inevitably heralded as a “next big thing” and began production on a debut EP. Drawing heavily from the R&B well, the bass-heavy result is 2015's Botanique, a release that is competent enough but entirely unremarkable.
I detected some latent DJ Shadow vibes lurking in the six tracks included on the EP, which starts off with an instrumental intro track built around gentle chimes, swooshing electronic pulses and a groaning vocal choir gradually being overtaken by more whining, higher-pitched tones. “La Vista” is the first of many tracks to introduce a pounding rhythm of kick drum and tinging cymbal; a lush instrumental that's perhaps the best here for its sense and use of space. Once “Coastin” begins, the album heads on a downward trajectory that it never quite recovers from. It's not that this piece (featuring Los Angeles artist Vox) is particularly awful, it just doesn't add much to well-established soul electro blueprints and though Vox's sultry lead vocals are well-performed, the clunking and shuddering background effects, ticking cymbal, and wailing ambient voices never push towards anything, making the song fall flat.
Fellow Norwegian OMVR adds detached, almost robotic vocals to the moderate-tempo drum and bass jam “For You,” which again proves Hasta can create rich ambiance in his tracks but doesn't at all seem interested in providing them with much of a sense of purpose. “Rainforest Cafe” returns to the more satisfying tropical atmosphere heard in the album's second track, with quiet jungle sound effects and a chattering mass of vocals heard under lurching chord structures and thumping electronic rhythm. Finally, Daniel Spencer adds breathy, passionate vocals to closer “Trouble,” an almost annoyingly generic R&B track I guess is designed to get panties wet. Maybe it does; it bored me.
To be honest, Hasta is working in one of the electronic genres I like the least, but I don't think there's any way to get around the fact that this debut is formulaic to a fault. As technically well-executed as it is, I also found it to be immediately forgettable: Hasta may be targeting the same audience as Rhye or The Weeknd, but Botanique doesn't strike the same emotional chord. I suppose there's worse ways to spend twenty-ish minutes, but I'm not sure why one would settle for this middle-of-the-road facsimile of better music.
5.7 / 10
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