Feb. 11 2014 07:15 PM

Unannounced release provides an exhilarating surprise

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The culture of digital music has increasingly allowed for more and more surprises and unannounced album drops from artists for whom new music is often treated as a headline event. We've seen it most recently with Beyoncé's self-titled "visual album," which she unveiled in late 2013 and, before that, with name-your-price full-length albums from the likes of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

John Christopher Harris II, aka Mystery Cave, doesn't exactly have the name recognition of Beyoncé or Radiohead, but that doesn't mean the unexpected release of his new 16-track album, titled DEEP_FIELD, doesn't deserve a similar kind of celebration. On Feb. 8, Harris quietly posted the album, the latest in a long series of digital releases, via his Bandcamp page, with only a Facebook announcement to spread the word. So, I'll go ahead and do my part: DEEP_FIELD is one hell of a pleasant surprise.

Since 2008, Harris has been self-releasing his electronic compositions via Bandcamp and limited-edition cassettes, but the beatmaker has achieved a new peak with his latest. Following the hallucinatory ambient grooves of Future Jurassic Age and the cosmic dub sounds of Red Tide//, both released in 2012, Harris homes back in on a more accessible, beat-driven approach reminiscent of San Diego veteran The Gaslamp Killer and Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus. And it consistently, uniformly jams.

In contrast to Mystery Cave's last couple of EPs, DEEP_FIELD features only two tracks longer than five minutes and a significant number that run their course well before hitting the three-minute mark. Brevity, it turns out, suits Harris nicely, the most impressive tracks here—like the heady "BLUE L ACE GEODE," the bouncy "BUILD ING BLOCKS" and the playfully psychedelic "A ME THYST"—reaching their conclusion long before growing redundant. 

Not that Harris is averse to going epic when the mood strikes. The mesmerizing "COSMIC C AT" is one of the most deeply layered tracks, building upon a simple foundation of loops before exploding into a galaxy of melodic twinkles. And "FLO ATING" unfolds even more slowly through its eight-minute duration, creating an even more subtle, but nonetheless gorgeous, progression. There's a lot of material on DEEP_FIELD, and, for that matter a lot to process, but it all sounds amazing. 

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff

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