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Favorite ThisPaper Diamond: Levitate Review

Published: January 30, 2011


By: Andrew Brown

Paper Diamond - LevitateColorado native Alex B (real name Alex Botwin) has been firing on all cylinders for the last year.  He’s been busy running Elm and Oak – his record label/promotion/design/clothing company.  In May 2010, Botwin, also the bassist for electronica act Pnuma Trio, dropped his first solo project, Moments, whose chilled-out electronic and hip-hop beats were received with mild fanfare.  In late 2010 he started a new solo project, Paper Diamond, debuting new music like his remix of Kanye West’s “Power” in a few DJ sets, including an opening gig for Bassnectar on New Year’s Eve.  And just a few days ago, Botwin released his first music as Paper Diamond, Levitate.

The eight-track EP is available for free download (in 320 kbps!) from the recently launched Pretty Lights Music record label.  Levitate is an upbeat, jaunty, 30-minute romp.  Its songs have more bounce and energy than those of Moments, perhaps explaining Botwin’s decision to release his new music under a new alias.  Though the wobbling synthesizers of his “Power” remix hinted that Paper Diamond might be a dubstep project, the genre’s influence is mostly absent on Levitate – the synths don’t wobble, though a few tracks do employ a modest, syncopated kick-clap dubstep rhythm.  In fact, the music sounds a lot like Pretty Lights, minus the samples.

Well, with one exception.  “From Now Till…” samples Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever” (yes, the same song Kanye used for his “Diamonds”).  Bassey’s voice echoes over crunching synths and relentless sixteenth note hi-hats, make listening to the song without nodding your head, impossible.  “From Now Till…” is the album’s biggest cut, but Botwin’s skillful drum programming makes every song danceable. 

The other highlight tracks bookend the EP.  Opener “Snowfall” is a two-minute introduction with dreamy synthesizer scales and laidback vibraphone tones.  It is followed by “Levitate”, which sounds like it could be the lovechild of Flying Lotus and Starkey.  The track is at first, bucolic and carefree, a pleasant summer walk on a country road, but the lush gated synthesizers that begin the song turn into a heavy, viscous syrup.  Triplet kicks and off-beat hand claps propel “Levitate” from beginning to end.  And “Steady Swinging”, Levitate’s penultimate song, has the EP’s biggest drop – pentatonic synth scales play over and over, building tension before giving way to one massive verse driven by a fat, 4-on-the-floor kick.

At times, Levitate feels like an homage to some of the bigger electronic acts of the day—namely Pretty Lights.  This owes, in part, to the synthesizer programming, which is fairly uniform over the course of several tracks.  Hardly a problem though, as the synths sound good.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I eagerly await the next Paper Diamond release.

From Now Till.....

Download the entire Paper Diamond - Levitate album for free.

Tags: BreaksDubstepGlitchHip HopDowntempo