Sun Airway, Soft Fall

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 10.02.12 in Reviews

Sun Airway’s Jon Barthmus doesn’t aim small. Soft Fall, the Philly native’s sophomore album, is symphonic electro-pop in the most literal sense, blending fragmented orchestral loops with glittery synth pulses and moody ambience – capturing the grandiose sweep of M83′s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in half the running time, without the spoken word bits and puzzling interludes about frogs.

Symphonic electro-pop in the most literal sense

Barthmus’ 2010 debut, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier, covered similar sonic territory but was hampered by its lo-fi basement fidelity. Soft Fall, however, sparkles blindingly from note one, as opener “Activity 1″ swells from misty strings to bright layers of programming; on “Close,” synth pads and arena-sized drum flourishes blur into one massive tidal-wave of sound. But Barthmus is more than just a sonic architect – he’s also developed into a more refined, inventive songwriter: “Wild Palms” is a dizzying heart-stopper, unfurling jittery string loops under a tongue-tied hook that refuses to sit still. Even when the sounds threaten to swallow the songs, you can always feel a heartbeat.