It’s difficult to explain how the Pontefract, United Kingdom based producer Craig I Robinson does it. How creates sonic experiences that slide through your eardrums and drip into your soul before slowly rising up into your mindset. You’ll be infected by the keyboard melodies, intoxicated by the texture of each different instrument, and then mesmerized by the labyrinth of subtle but steadfast percussion. You’ll find yourself exploring a bubbling and pristine basslines layers until you realize the album has come full-circle and you’re starting in the same place you began.
Every producer carefully crafts their own atmospheres and rhythms. They spend hours crooning over their production values and they tweak the effects a hundred times over, but in the end, do they have something that truly achieves what it sets out to do? Is it as sonically satisfying as they’d like to believe?
“Sunward Bound”, the first full-length album by Craig I Robinson can safely assume that its slick production blend is truly a gem and that its song progression fits perfectly into what Ambient Chill electronic music is meant to do.
The key to the above affirmation lies in Craig I Robinson’s humble demeanor. “I do love the fact that music is the universal ‘instrumental’ language that everyone understands or relates to in their own way,” he explains. “Sunward Bound” is an album not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed in the background,” he goes on to conclude. Which actually, is only partially true. You could, as Craig I Robinson states, simply turn it on and let it run in background. However, if you need to immerse yourself into the listening experience, there is plenty to enjoy.
The Ambient Chill atmosphere is persistent throughout “Sunward Bound”, but it is infused with hip-hop gestures, which present an understated vibrancy in each song. The album kicks off with the back-to-back delights, “First Sight”, “Sienna” and “Other side”, which immediately bring the gorgeous use of melodic voices to your attention. Craig I Robinson uses the harmonic vocals to inject rich color and dynamism into the sonic palettes. “Highs & Lows” utilizes the juxtaposition of voices, pianos and synth pads to great effect.
“Sunward Bound” sweeps and twinkles in shifting effervescence, underscored by throbbing drums and distant vocals, before transitioning to the skittering and kinetic “Instincts”. Here Craig I Robinson weaves a spirited musical enigma.
Track after track, he throws curves in the purported trajectory of the album until you’re left with a cerebral maze of warm and comforting sounds. “To the Top” rides on rolling percussion and a beautifully constructed melody line expressed by the wordless vocals.
“Pause & Ponder” is gently propelled by string pads, deep irregular bass notes, and shimmering keys, while “Dru” brings a steady head nodding beat to the table, which is hard to ignore. The album closes with the lush cinematic sway of “Pushing Down Hill”. The meticulous, layered production and the ear for a complimentary, unassuming melody are both present. Overall, the album “Sunward Bound”, epitomizes everything that’s so fresh and innovative about Craig I Robinson’s sound.
From the eloquent melodies to the wavy keys and throbbing drums, Craig I Robinson succeeds in imbuing everything in a warm, laid-back groove. Each component is intuitively blended to create comforting soundscapes that gently drift on like nostalgic images from a dream. Add in his scrupulous all-round production work, and these songs are very easy to fall into and inhabit.