Justin Sweatt is a weary traveler in this world. He looks around with an artist’s heart and a writer’s mind, capturing what he sees and interprets it through electronic music. Sweatt might consider himself a cynic, but I’d say he’s more of a stoic. The bitter of life doesn’t escape him, but he doesn’t let it distort his worldview too much. He takes all that energy, good and bad, and morphs it into vast, glorious sounds; sounds that are as dark and shadowy as a New Orleans All Hallow’s Eve, and as vast and endless as a Texas skyline.
Justin Sweatt made music for the better part of a decade under the name Xander Harris. Dark, foreboding electronic music that framed dystopian vibes with the warmth of synthesizers. But in 2019 Justin Sweatt released the album Say Your Goodbyes under his own name. That album was a sonic shift into ambient, ethereal sounds that captured an artist contemplating their life and those within their orbit. It was a huge shift that promised a new direction. One that might be promising not a dystopian future, but one where new beginnings may lay.
Justin Sweatt has returned with his second release under his own name. When The Light Goes continues that shift into contemplative territory. Not so much a continuation of Say Your Goodbyes, but merely following the sonic path that album paved the way for.
Sweatt has proven to be very adept at creating darkly-lit techno and slow-moving odes to Berlin School sounds of the 70s, but he’s just as good at building sonic worlds of light and wonder as well. “Under Currents” swells like a waking dream; it’s opening a window to some vast view that is part magenta skyline and alternate universe. “Cache Canyon” pulsates with light and optimism. It shimmers with an almost hopeful refrain, promising better days to come(if we’re open to the possiblity.) “Ballroom Full Of Stars” sounds as it reads; a vast, astronomical map draping from the sky above as we sway below on sandy ground or gravel roads. “Leaving Midland” feels heartfelt, earnest, and carries with it a bittersweet pull. Sort of a new age, cowboy ballad. A song that echos through the canyons as the sun burns away in the west.
For those of you who appreciate comparisons and such, Sweatt locks into a sound that contemporaries such as Jonas Munk, Billow Observatory, and Auburn Lull know very well. Steve Roach and Omni Gardens also make similar noise as well. But Sweatt is very much his own artist, and When The Light Goes is all the more unique for it.
Over the course of 9 songs(and two bonus tracks) Justin Sweatt builds us a place to sit and rest while the world twists and turns around us. When The Light Goes is an ornate, melancholy, and dizzying ambient record with touches of new age heaviness and swirling psychedelia. This is another huge step forward for Justin Sweatt.
8.3 out of 10
‘When The Light Goes’ is available now. Buy it here.