In the world of music production, the word producer gets thrown around quite a bit. While in some circles the term means someone who produces music for themselves and others, it can also refer to an artist standing in front of a screen and behind a Macbook Pro. While John Allen Stephens moves far beyond the laptop for his live sets, his production for other artists has always been immaculate. As far as his production for his own music however, he makes some of the most mesmerizing and fluid notes you can get into your ears. On his new album Return To Form the producer delivers his best music to date while singing like his life depends on it in every soulful and earnest note.
While the album is set to be released digitally tomorrow, Stephens let us offer it up for you a day early. What you’ll hear is not only world class production in every track, but a sound that moves you both inside and out. While the opening track “Phaedrus (An Introduction)” is a prelude for what’s to come, the track offers the perfect taste of what’s available to the artist within his arsenal of arrangements. Follow that up with the bop “Molotov” and you should already be hooked. Stephens sings alongside the beat and these backing vocals that pull you closer like a lover on the dance floor.
Stephens never relents here. On “Coltrane, Coltrane Or A Love Supreme” the producer enjoys interplay with keys to craft a modern track with touches of the past. For “Withdrawal” he creates a slow build that burns like a forest fire you can’t extinguish. Between his soft voice and the noodling of the guitar, Stephens uses music like a tractor beam that won’t let go of your ears. And on the closer “Quality” he gets dark on the synths without offering a beaming light to guide your way through the darkness. But with all of these graces, he truly shines on the song “Crystallization (Second Wave).” The mixture of beats and synths as he sways between them vocally with surgical precision is immaculate. The way in which he keeps the building of the track going while he adds additional vocals in the background without losing his falsetto is like nothing you’ll hear in modern music. The piano and brass work together to remind you of another time while the overall effect is true modernization. Though it doesn’t feel out of step. It’s just what the future will sound like.
Return To Form is available to purchase directly from Bandcamp tomorrow. It can also be purchased through all digital outlets. It can also be streamed on all streaming sites. John Allen Stephens will perform on February 05 at Wonky Power Live. The pay what you can model for ticketing can be purchased here for the ultra-limited capacity performance.
Image Credits: Photo by Daniela Hernandez.