My introduction to ESP was via the eye-popping video for their song “Serenade,” directed by Alexandra Pelly, and described as an homage to Yellow Magic Orchestra. As a fan of WTUL’s Techno 2000 radio show in the ’80s, I am familiar with YMO’s music, particularly that of member Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also worked with Japan and David Sylvian. Naturally my interest was piqued.
According to their press materials, “ESP is a new Los Angeles-based trio whose primary interest is, as their name implies, Extra Sensory Perception.” Apparently they seek to explore this phenomenon through their music. It’s a fitting title; their music is psychedelic but not beholden to the 1960s sonic palette normally associated with that word. Their lyrics are more about creating a mood than telling a story.
The three letters of the band’s name are also reflected in its three members: Aska and Seiya Matsumiya, a sister and brother who share keyboards/vocals and keyboards electronics duties; and Bobby Evans, who plays drums and electronics. ESP has an astonishingly rich presence for just three members, which is evidence of their talent and inventiveness.
The opening instrumental track, “ESP,” sets the tone for the rest of the music, although minus Aska’s vocals. It’s spooky and sensual and at odds with the syncopated drumbeat underneath the bleeps and bloops. Despite, or perhaps because of these slightly incongruous sounds, it is instantly appealing.
When Aska introduces her vocals on “Wonder Wonder,” you get a fuller sense of what the band is about. She has a breathy, imperfect style, and frequently sings in a register that is perhaps too high for her to reach comfortably. Though some might find this technique annoying, it’s surprisingly endearing. “Wonder Wonder” evokes the imagery of Logan’s Run—futuristic yet earthy—thanks to Evans’s drumming, which gives the song an almost lounge music vibe.
These intoxicating beats continue on “Serenade,” where Aska pushes her voice to its limits. “627″ is the song that will either make or break this band for the listener. The vocals are almost atonal, but layered with the background music, “627″ is quite mesmerizing.
The unsettling “Bermuda” is downright creepy, but balances this with some modern, Top 40, dance music-style synths and beats, which seems like a strange combination—and it is—but the contrast works well. “Imaginary World” begins like a spaceship taking off, complete with celestial sounds. The wonderful mixture of drums, chimes, and bass in the bridge has a decidedly Asian influence, and actually does remind me of Japan and Sakamoto’s work from the early 1980s.
ESP’s music both repels and attracts, lending it a refreshing dynamism that is sure to please the adventurous music fans out there.
ESP’s self-titled EP was self-released on August 28. You can purchase it from the Cargo Collective website.