Review Summary: Dylan Khotin-Foote’s excellent fourth album widens the grooves and deepens the ambience.
I’m probably not alone in this, but I’ve never really felt any genuine concern or warmth anytime I’ve been greeted with “I hope this email finds you well.” It’s the de facto opening pleasantry usually reserved for middling professional relationships or distant relatives, detached and clinical by design—and just
polite enough for what those types of exchanges might merit. It certainly seems like an odd source to draw inspiration from, but Edmonton-based ambient techno producer Dylan Khotin-Foote credits becoming “haunted” by its feigned sympathy as the catalyst for his excellent fourth record. Finds You Well
grapples with sincerity and human connection in the shadow of the pandemic through lively and danceable upbeat tracks, as well as distant and frigid ambient work.
Each song feels like a distinct snapshot akin to the blown-out photo on the cover, undoubtedly warm and honest but somewhat emotionally implacable. The tracks generally fall into one of two camps—beat-orientated or ambient—with rippling synth pads, eerie sound effects, creaky drum loops, and voice samples that soften together under humid production. They unfold subtly and don’t deviate much once the elements have been introduced, but the record avoids monotony due its skillful sequencing and surprising diversity. Early in Finds You Well
, Khotin strings together three of his strongest beat-oriented tracks: the carbonated Boards of Canada worship of “Ivory Tower” and “Heavyball”, as well as the quasi-funk of “Groove 32” (complete with a fat-as-hell bassline and digital congas) add up to 12 of his liveliest minutes since his debut Hello World
. And yet lacquered under the lo-fi production, there’s a dark tinge of nostalgia that runs throughout even the most upbeat tracks.
The more ambient-leaning material on Finds You Well
is similarly compelling, barring the sagging middle stretch of “Outside in the Light” and “Lucky Egg”, both too anemic to make a lasting impact. Opener “Processor” sets the stage with fluttering synths over rippling chords, establishing the nostalgic tone by balancing uneasy static noise and sweet melodies. The flickering piano and shifting tones of “Your Favourite Building” and “Shopping List” submerge the record deeper into the murky production, before the buoyant synths and contemplative chords of “My Toan” bring things to a suitably wistful close. On the whole, Finds You Well
contains Khotin’s most confident material yet, perhaps best shown on album centrepiece “WEM Lagoon Jump” which perfectly balances balmy ambience and considerable hooks.
Towards the end of that song, you hear a group of friends laughing as one of them jumps into the lagoon. Like most of the dialogue snippets throughout Finds You Well
, it reinforces the mysterious beauty of connection. You can hear it in the endearingly awkward singing from a little girl who repeats “the world is wonderful” in “Your Favourite Building”, in the slightly overbearing (but clearly well-meaning) phone messages of two elderly folks excited for their plans the next day in "Outside in the Light", or even in the dejected questioning of a man asking someone why they won’t return their phone calls at the end of that same track. They're the kind of intangible, yet oddly potent moments that get frozen in time on an answering machine, in a grainy old photograph, or occasionally on an album like Finds You Well