Once you enter Topanga Canyon, you understand. The terrain that the Tongva tribe called “a land above” has forever cultivated a laissez-faire bohemian spirit. It is the last remaining spot in L.A. where you can purchase crystals without feeling embarrassed. You can wander in multiple restaurants and hear the word “esoteric vibrations” being used. Hitchhikers still dot the road connecting Highway 1 to the deep recesses of the San Fernando Valley.
It’s a spot suspended in amber, a permanent reminder of the 1960s spirit and arguably the best place to create in Los Angeles County. It’s the former home of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills and the forever undervalued Spirit.
So, when Ryan York, the producer also known as Asura, titled his new EP “If I Am This Forest,” it was an obvious reference to his new Arcadian digs. You can’t live in Topanga and not be swept up by the peaceful energy and radical tranquility. Accordingly, “Forest” is a gorgeous whoosh of blindingly bright summer synths and gauzy honey-throated vocals.
The Non Projects-released EP splits the difference between Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” and the phosphorescent blessed-out beats of Teebs, York’s fellow Futura resident. It’s easily York’s finest work and cements an artist barely old enough to drink as yet another of the greater Low End Theory world that warrants national attention.
Premiering today on Pop & Hiss, “As the Darkness (After the Crash)” almost feels like a contemporary beat scene take on “After the Gold Rush.” Rural guitar strums conjure a hayseed ambience, layers of synths and looped vocals build like the gentlest of gyres. While York stays carefully attuned to the power of melody -- something often sacrificed scene-wise in terms of interesting sounds or pulverizing bass.
The canyon has been largely quiet since Devendra Banhart’s freak-folk phase faded away. “If I Am This Forest” is the sort of record that could inspire musicians to cluster around Pat’s Topanga Grill, the state park and log cabin living rooms throughout the canyon. If only the real estate were a bit cheaper.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Ryan York; Credit: Paolo Rafael
Download: (Pop & Hiss Premiere)
MP3:Ryan York -- 'As the Darkness (After the Crash)'