“Trance” is a word predominantly associated with Anjunabeats family member Andrew Bayer. His impeccable productions under his own name, and other projects like Signalrunners, made him an adored act early on. Not much time passed following his discovery by Above & Beyond for them to tap his expertise for countless of their recent productions. His brilliance in all things dancefloor-oriented is impossible to deny. However, the Berklee graduate and skilled sound designer is so much more than his visible surface.
In 2013, he offered the most in-depth exploration of his creativity in If It Were You, We’d Never Leave. The release was a bold move — stunned reactions ensued when his classic 4/4 formulas were completely ditched in favor of experimental shades of electronica and ambient that were considerably more difficult to digest and understand. His willingness to go all in with this concept and expand upon something he’d only offered crumbs of in the past ended up being met with the acclaim it deserved — once properly consumed by audiences.
One could argue that Andrew Bayer shines his brightest in album form, when given unbridled creative freedom. He creates meaningful and impactful moments within the folds of eclectic terrain, and tells a tale of personal exploration through diverse stylings. This phenomenon holds true in his latest album, In My Last Life — his third to date. The LP bears a more similar aesthetic to its predecessor in that it embraces primarily the experimental side of his artistry. That said, it doesn’t disappoint in standing completely on its own as a reflection of where Bayer is currently at in his musical journey.
Two key characteristics jump out from In My Last Life: the first is that every single production on it is a vocal one. Once again, Bayer is stepping into territory he hasn’t previously explored on albums. Alison May and Ane Brun work in tandem with their collaborator to add an ethereal twist to the finished product, in addition to amplifying its overall cohesion and emotional expression.”Immortal Lover,” for example, constructs an intriguing play between buzzing synths and hollow pangs of percussion that is twisted into a poignant number courtesy of May’s singing.
In My Last Life wouldn’t be the same at all without its vocalists, according to Bayer. He advised to press that, “In My Last Life started with the lyric writing, and Ane and Ali have brought such a unique indie vibe to the whole project.” Though their contributions are intrinsically linked to the album as a whole, they aren’t its dominating force. Bayer skillfully balances his own background productions with his singer counterparts. Ane Brun’s voice embeds itself gracefully into pieces like “Hold On To You” and “Your Eyes,” allowing listeners to hear how enjoyable melodies and percussion are underneath.
Perhaps the change in writing technique also feeds into another apparent inspiration behind In My Last Life: classic synthpop, and its more modern descendants. “End Of All Things” and “Love You More” are vaguely reminiscent of sounds from artists like M83 and MGMT. Even the faster-paced songs that were more geared toward the dancefloor carried a retro-minded edge to them and an indie appeal — “Your Eyes” and “In My Last Life” come to mind.
Parallels aside, the sounds are retrofitted into the type of forward-thinking setting that Bayer consistently provides. The album is distinctively him in the end. It also shows off the sense of humility that has moved him forward in his career. Bayer opened himself to learning a completely new angle of songwriting and arrangement, and pulled off a caliber body of work in the process. Sometimes, feeling a bit of pressure from stepping outside the proverbial comfort zone can spark an avalanche of inspiring ideas.