Review Summary: An easy album to sink into, but not so much to enjoy.
Five years ago, Jonathan Ng began his musical career under The Eden Project
moniker – an experiment of sorts that saw him upload songs to various online accounts while amassing quite the impressive fan base (nearly 200,000 followers on SoundCloud alone). After placing three EPs to his name (which is now just EDEN
) and signing to a major label (UMG Recordings), Ng is seemingly ready to break through to mainstream markets with his debut LP Vertigo
– a record entrenched in synth-laced electro pop and unshakable heartbreak. It’s a fragmented debut, sprinkling fleeting moments of promise amid a much larger, and unfortunately rather sparse, soundscape.
is at its best when Ng really experiments with the album’s production. For instance, there is a moment in ‘crash’ where his low-register vocals cut out abruptly and transform into this forsaken sounding, high-pitched, digitalized passage (“you’re not who you think you are”
)…and it’s sheer brilliance. As with most electronic records, there needs to be a heavy-handed emphasis on the production in order to draw focus to the artist’s creative strengths. Ng accomplishes that a handful of times here: the borderline industrial detour that ‘icarus’ takes early on, the flourishing, string-laden introduction to ‘take care’, the addictive rhythm and percussive energy that comprises ‘gold’… and it’s these sort of moments that draw listeners to EDEN like audio clickbait. The issue, however, is that these “glimpses” never really coalesce into dynamic, meaningful songs
is more a collection of disjointed ideas, never quite finding its footing while alternating between certain ideas that work and others that come across as either jarring and out-of-place, or worse yet, flat-out boring.
For the better part of fifty-two minutes, Vertigo
cycles through murky, reverb-drenched breakup themes that undermine its few chances to succeed. There’s a sleepy feel to the entire thing, as Ng refuses to take any vocal risks while aiming for “artfully depressed”, and it ends up sounding more like the shameless ramblings of a teenager chronicling his first heartbreak. ‘start//end’ meanders well past the five minute mark with no real hook or progression, trying desperately to invoke an emotional response out of the line “Been looking for the stars but it seems like they're all gone
” – and at track number three, it already sums up what you can expect from more than half of the remaining songs. ‘wings’ and ‘lost//found’ follow suit, with the latter barely even moving the meter. Ng continues his lifeless trudge onward with little interest in shaking things up, and the final product continually suffers for it. There’s something to be said for creating an atmosphere and maintaining it, but the musical and lyrical themes on display here are all too predictable. At the very least, Vertigo
would have benefited from being injected with an electric guitar riff, some keyboards…anything
to shake it awake from its own stupor. It does happen from time to time, but not often enough to redeem this as an interesting or worthwhile release. It’s an album that is easy to sink into, but not so much to enjoy.
The good news is that Jonathan Ng is only twenty one years old. He has plenty of time to re-imagine, experiment, collaborate, and grow – which there’s little doubt that he will. But for a highly anticipated debut album, Vertigo
falls a bit flat. Ng would best serve the EDEN project by branching out on his next release, in an effort to prove that what listeners witnessed on his earlier EPs was not a fluke. Although some of that magic still pokes its head through here and there, it’s largely obscured by Vertigo
's overarching lethargy. It’s now up to Ng to prove that it isn’t completely gone.