To say that Max Burstyn takes a cerebral approach to his sounds would be putting it mildly. Not only is the multitasking London-based composer, producer, performer and DJ studying a Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music, his compositions are purposefully infused with influences ranging from the classical late-romantic period to experimental electronica, Eastern harmony and – more of a curveball, this – notions of science, spirituality and psychology.
But far from being inaccessibly highbrow, Burstyn’s thoughtful approach to his art comes over as refreshing and, on his debut EP, ‘Komorebi’, whose instrumentals are rooted in chilled breakbeats and glitchy electronics, it is reflected in an all-round excellence of musicianship and arrangement, making for a rhapsodic listen.
The science stuff seems to permeate the opening bars of ‘Remember Yourself’, where warped digital droplets bubble as if from a beaker jar, through a Lemon Jelly-style downbeat loop, as the drums shuffle under gently arpeggiated acoustic guitar and tinkling piano. The infectious funk of ‘Forget Yourself’ is entwined with metallic percussion and modal clarinet, conveying the Middle Eastern inspirations of which Burstyn acknowledges, while ‘Orientation’ points the EP in a considerably more middle of the road direction as that acoustic six-string takes centre stage among a plain violin melody and a sunny pop vibe.
Highlight of the piece is ‘Plans in Sand’ and its plaintive, fluttering saxophone lines, bearing elements of Ethiopian soul and smoky midcentury jazz across subtle strings, a languid kick drum and substantial sub-bass. The haunting sax melody was learned from a sample and then played by Burstyn, as are many of the other instruments on ‘Komorebi’ – clarinet, guitar, keys, synths and digital drums. This multitalented music student’s debut EP captures both the mathematics of music and its intangible emotivity. I’d be tempted to give Max Burstyn a distinction.
Words by Nick Mee
Komorebi is out now