As a group, musicians who move to LA hoping to, I guess, run into an A&R at Erewhon are generally dogged, tortured, starving, and desperate. Splash Downey is not any of these things. He lives in a cheap apartment on a quiet street in Santa Monica where a one westward block walk brings into view the long line of the pacific, along the shore of which it is his habit to talk long edible tinted walks. He works a not particularly difficult day job he does not particularly care about. He makes music whenever he can, and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. These things I learned in the year I lived with him. When I moved out his sound engineer moved in, which is probably a better arrangement and perhaps what allowed his latest project, titled The Splash Tape 3 (and this article’s primary subject), to be what it was.
On that subject: the 10-song 26-minute third-installment released on October 20 of this year and features a song you might call Dance or EDM, several you’d call Rap, a handful of Pop, one that’s Hyperpop, two Folk, and at least one official Very Sad Love Song. More helpful for getting a sense of the project’s breadth would probably be to simply play the first 5 seconds of each track. Tight and punchy beats skip to echoing industrial ones skip to acoustic snaps skip to something like a production software having an orgasm.
Splash approaches the gauntlet thrown down by rangey production with a necessary skill set of hyphen pop artists: he can sing, and he can rap. He can also, crucially, switch between the two, and adopt tones and pitches somewhere in the gray area of their blend. Much like the NBA, the contemporary Hip Hop landscape will suffer few big men who can’t shoot. Luckily, Splash happens to have an excellent jumper.
Maybe this is because Splash Downey listens to more music than basically anyone else I know. He has the rare knack for locating the needle of what makes a particular song or genre enjoyable in the haystack of its superficial aesthetic. He is unprejudiced against sounds he hasn’t heard before.
This does not mean The Splash Tape 3 is a diasporic safari to the edges of genre—in the grand scheme of things the album hews fairly closely to its core sound, announced at the very latest by Like That, the second (and my personal favorite) track. But as is always the case, the sensibilities of the creator leak into the work in unexpected ways and places. In other words, if you come across a sound like Maxwell covering Kate Bush through the mouthpiece of 100 Gecs, that might be on purpose.
Splash and his third tape sit squarely in the lineage of artists who enter music making through rap and gradually drift towards into something more sonically expansive. Exemplars would be Mac Miller, Dominick Fike, Baby Keem, Frank Ocean.
Permeating the album is a sense of becoming. Splash Downey has been at this a while. Over the years the sound has morphed and refined and developed. Like those whose work has inspired him, Splash has no plans to stagnate. The next album will not sound like this one. Pinned through the years and the work though is a visible thread of improvement. He gets better every time. And it would seem that people are starting to notice. The last Splash Tape has been streamed over 200k times. This one is better. Now is the time to listen.
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