Fall can come with nostalgia for our often troubled childhoods, still glimmering with moments of innocence: pumpkin patches, walks home from school and your parents sleeping in separate bedrooms. Dylan Khotin-Foote, more famously known as Khotin, seems to capture this nostalgia, and its accompanying eeriness, with his newest album Finds You Well — a hard task to do without bordering on the cheesy side. Finds You Well mixes downtempo beats, ambient sounds and sprinkles of voice recordings to create a peaceful, dreamy space to meditate on whatever this time of year brings up for you. Khotin, no stranger to genre-bending and experimentation, comes to this album after having played with sounds of house, acid and more recently, ambient. The album bounces off elaborate beats and synths that are both rural and ghostly. 

The album has a motif of answering machine messages that really brings about the nostalgic element of the album in a sweet, cozy way. In a press release, Khotin said the album was inspired by the overused and often melancholically bound phrase, “I hope this email finds you well,” with its shape shifting mood depending on the correspondence and person sending out the message. The phrase — now more prevalent than ever with the added “during these chaotic times” — can often come off as an insincere inclusion to an email that may be bearing bad news, or may just be a simple check in or task. Khotin reflects on the haunted echo this phrase induces on all 10 tracks of the album.

The first track, “Processing,” lays out the themes for the album in terms of sound and feeling: an echoing synth paired with ambient sounds that make the song seem like a meditation, and an introduction to a repeating voice on the album — here, this voice is drawn-out, quiet and less easily understood. “Outside In The Light” narrows in on a familiar experience, of recalling voice memos from worried family members, resolving the otherwise worried voices into something more like a dreamscape. 

Khotin does not forget his past of less ambient sounds on “Groove 32,” a simple bouncy bedroom beat, with a crunchy bassline that sits a bit less on the ambient side of the album, and more on his past projects, like his first album, Hello World. The warmth from the answering machine messages can be seen in the visuals accompanying the album, seen on Spotify or in a music video Khotin made for this track. The visuals use an old video camera, reminiscent of childhood videos, which Khotin says he filmed in Vancouver before moving back to his hometown. The album cover is a gritty, glitched photograph of what seems like two lovers caught off guard; each song seems to reflect the same mood the album cover gives off. However, the album’s strongest points are when Khotin gives himself to the calm and moodier side of things, like on the track “Your Favorite Building.” The longest song on the album, a simple piano loop, utilizes notes from the album’s entirety — from alien synth sounds to moments of a dreamy violin, entering and leaving in a breath.

Many have compared Khotin’s sounds to the iconic ’90s duo Boards of Canada, with their similarities in affinity for field recordings, samples and effect-ridden snares. However, this comparison is not out of criticism, but rather applause for Khotin’s ability to find a new way to give the same feeling of the signature sounds of Boards of Canada, while providing a more tender, comforting sound. Khotin himself though, is sick of the comparison, tweeting “stop comparing my album to boc challenge.” I guess the challenge failed.

The album also offers itself in the physical form on a transparent mossy vinyl and cassette, only further emphasizing this haunted nostalgia the album plays with. It is definitely worth a listen by those keen on ambient textures, those who love  Boards of Canada and those working their way through fall’s nostalgia.

Daily Arts Contributor Katy Trame can be reached at ktrame@umich.edu.

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