Part of the L.A. beat scene, Charles Dickerson might even be something of a tourist – recording (sporadically) as Mono/Poly, remixing Flying Lotus, hinting and teasing at his own signature sound but so obviously (still) taking beats and pieces from friends and competitors, still searching for that sound – something the mixes clipped, hip-hop entrée beats with the murky swirl of synths and little water-colour moments of pop pastiche.
Golden Skies is really rather lovely, and listener-friendly – and there’s surprising depth in even the slightest of tracks (Golden Gate’s sub two-minute running time still offers up a lot) and on the title track things really start to feel cemented, skittering breaks with most of the actual jitter removed, slowed and smoothed to a coast and waft, keys gently tracing the arc.
What’s ultimately missing is that this music could/should mean anything. That feel(ing) starts to arrive with a vocal track – Mendee Ichikawa’s stoned-over slow-crawl through Empyrean becomes, almost by default, the album highlight. Here we get to hear what Dickerson can do behind somebody, around somebody, without her – without a vocalist, without a structure to the song – he’s just cruising. And while that’s often nice, and certainly easy to sit back with – even when the odd curveball (like the Sebastien Tellier-esque vamp of Dreamscape or the soft-neon Cliff Martinez-aping Night Garden) starts to make it seem like it could actually be on the cusp of exciting it then just all falls away.
No final push, no grit beneath this soul veneer.
The closing track here, Gamma, is all class – a rubbery bass line poking its head out and around the slow, soft probe of the synth and a little splatter of drums. It’s like a Steely Dan shading creating by someone completely uninterested in Steely Dan.
It makes me want to hear Dickerson move into the world of soundtrack composition.