Eliot Lipp has carved a distinct path for himself over the years, staying true to his personal style of hip-hop-inflected dance-pop over the course of nine albums, largely ignoring mainstream currents of electronic music. He continues in this vein with Skywave while at the same time absorbing some of the breezy, laid-back vibes of his native Pacific Northwest, which is credited for much of the album's inspiration.
Longtime fans will find themselves on familiar footing here, with all the usual elements present: crisp, '90s-evoking hip-hop beats peppered with samples, analog synth noodling and smooth, often striking transitions — something Lipp has a knack for — throughout. Indeed, there seems to be an interesting idea on deck at all times; they come in the form of subtle touches (the delicate pitch-wheel action on "Tides." for example), as well as more overt elements, like the seesawing vocal sample on "Reflection," or the mournful strings of "Not Quite Awake (Emancipator Remix)." There are some great '80s-style bass lines to be heard as well; funky stuff.
Perhaps the main strength of the album, though, is its savvy combination of hardware exploration and pop sensibilities. Lipp isn't afraid to develop a cool idea at length, but he knows just when to bring back a track's signature elements, closing off these more indulgent sections with aplomb. It's a fine balancing act, and Lipp succeeds ably.
Skywave is a fun and likeable album that will appeal to both gear enthusiasts and those seeking a more hook-oriented pop experience. (Young Heavy Souls)