Today the Brooklyn-via-Ohio chillwave auteur Brothertiger shares the first glimpse of his forthcoming album, Paradise Lost, which comes five years after his last.
“Livin’” is dark and transfixing, pairing a sweeping synthscape with droned, atmospheric vocals. Lyrically the track arcs from aimlessness toward dread: “The vines close in / As I dredge through the mire / The floodlights dim / As the trail climbs higher now,” John Jagos sings in the final verse.
“This record was, for me, the culmination of a lot of time and development,” says Jagos of Paradise Lost as a whole. “Since my last album was released five years ago, I had been building on top of that sound, trying to make it even more dynamic and distinct.”
According to Jagos, Paradise Lost is his most emotionally vulnerable collection yet: “This record is also my most personal, and I think that shows not only in the subject matter, but in the choice of sounds as well,” he explains. “I find that in electronic music, you can capture an emotion honestly with synthesized sound, not just with lyrics.”
“Livin’” arrives with an ominous music video featuring cryptic shots of grass, leaves, and surveillance cameras. The track follows Brothertiger’s latest EPs, 2020’s Fundamentals, Vol. 1 and 2019’s A Chain of Islands.
“That EP was written in the midst of some deep self-reflection in my friendships and my life around high school,” Jagos said in 2019 of the latter. “Kind of about growing pains, leaving friends to move away for college/work/etc, and coming back to visit and seeing how people change. Growing up in Ohio was pretty ‘normal,’ but still, a lot happened in my life there, and I think that EP is a good reflection of what I learned about living, if that makes any sense. From what I’ve gathered from fans, other people seem to equate their experience growing up to what they hear on the record.”
For Jagos, 80’s synthwave remains an important influence: “The thing that really draws me to that kind of music is the way that synths of that era interact with specific melodies,” Jagos said in the same interview. “5th chords, arpeggios, etc. Modern synths can certainly emulate that, but there’s something about a Jupiter 6 playing big full major chords in a certain pattern that really does it for me. Also, I think it’s just a general vibe I like. I’m not even a full-blown fan of hardcore 80’s stuff, i.e. the big hair, clothing, general vibe of the music. I like the stuff that’s not talked about so much that came out of that era. I like bands like Prefab Sprout, guys like Thomas Dolby and Brian Eno, who really used a studio and synthesizer in harmony to make something new and interesting.”
Brothertiger burst onto the chillwave scene with a pair of EPs (2010’s Vision Tunnels and 2011’s Point of View) followed by a pair of albums (2012’s Golden Years and 2013’s Future Splendors). Though both were released via Mush, he released 2015’s Out of Touch independently. Across these releases his hazy synth arrangements have called to mind fellow chillwave acts Blackbird Blackbird, Washed Out, and Millionyoung—“Livin’” shares the lurching quality of the latter’s 2011 album Replicants.
Jagos has also cited another genre as a major influence: “Italo disco.”
“Born out of progressive music around the late ’70s, Italo [disco] originated in Italy (obviously) and gained massive popularity in Europe in the mid-80s,” he wrote on his blog in 2016. “Producers like Giorgio Moroder, Devo, and Kraftwerk had huge influence on the formation of the genre, and popular acts such as Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, New Order, and Sylvester were heavily influenced by this genre of electronic music.”
Naturally, Jagos started exploring Italo disco and chillwave simultaneously: “I discovered Italo disco soon after I started producing electronic music,” he continues, “right around the time that Washed Out became popular with ‘Feel It All Around.’”
Paradise Lost is out September 11 via Satanic Panic. You can pre-order it here.