Album of the Day: Cale Sexton, “Melondrama”

If Melbourne label Butter Sessions were to take over an entire club, Cale Sexton would likely hold court in the chillout room. While label founder Sleep D and regulars such as Dan White (who now records as Rings Around Saturn) work best in energy-raising techno, Sexton’s strength has been in catching you on the comedown. His spacious, downtempo productions and melodic bass playing have made him an essential part of the label through compilations, collaborations, and one striking 2016 EP. Now, he takes center stage on his debut album Melondrama, a collection of softly-enveloping synth jams as gentle as they are euphoric.

Melondrama is actually the first full-length release on Butter Sessions, which has stuck strictly to singles and EPs over its eight years. That’s not abnormal for a dance label (LPs aren’t traditionally the genre’s focus), but the choice feels just right for Sexton. Tracks like opener “The Sump” and album highlight “Intercom” take full advantage of that sense of space, floating evocative melodies over watery atmospheres. It makes the basslines and synths feel just as impactful as the silences they dissolve into and emerge out from.

Sexton balances Melondrama’s woozy vibe with carefully placed highs. “KSS” threads a playful synth melody through tightly wound drum machine rhythms, while the rippling psychedelia of “Look Back And Lurch” is fueled by a punchy bassline. The best moments though come when Sexton slows down. The gorgeous single “Speak Into It” creates a vast foundation for Sexton’s evocative guitar leads, and it’s followed by the six-minute “Crowbar” where ghostly synths strobe in slow motion. Sexton lets everything burn straight down to its embers on the vast, beatless closer “LS2,” giving Melondrama a strong sense of scope (while inviting plenty of replays). It’s a slow-burning debut for a career that’s just heating up.

-Miles Bowe

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