Throwing Snow: Mosaic & Pathfinder (Houndstooth)
Ross Tones’ debut album as Throwing Snow is not so far off the path from his collaborative project with Hannah Cartwright, Snow Ghosts. At a first pass listeners might find Mosaic to revisit the tried and true ground of mid- to late-90s trip hop, but upon closer inspection, I’d say that Mosaic is far from a mere throwback. No doubt Tones has a production style that’s simultaneously organic and detail-oriented, using electronics, samples, and programming to create a lush world of sound that is as accessible as it is rich. Only four of Mosaic’s eleven tracks are instrumental, but I think those are crucial to the album’s success as it plays back. By way of its vocal collaborations, Mosaic does recall trip hop (though I’d say it treads closer to the grey area inhabited by late 90s Locust), but Tones also has his ears and fingers in all kinds of current sounds and trends, without being slavish to any one of them. Tinges of footwork, garage, IDM, and hip hop rise to the surface in various permutations over the span of 11 tracks.
Having those wordless excursions between vocal songs here and there lends an added depth to the variety, not to mention focusing on Tones’ production chops exclusively. And he’s quite good, channeling some of the same organic electronic sounds of Four Tet (“Linguis”) or Various Production (“The Void”) but with a more sensual, human touch. Occasionally Tones sets his sights more directly on the dancefloor, such as in the melancholic house touches of “Saltare,” but more often than not he and his chanteuses focus on something more evocative or seductive. Adda Kaleh sings on a couple tracks, and one of my personal favorites is “Maera,” incorporating skittering, busy footwork rhythms with a smooth vocal and a nice treatment of reverb.
The Pathfinder EP preceded the release of Mosaic and includes two tracks from the album (“The Tempest,” again with vocals by Kaleh, and “Pathfinder”). It’s curious that his lead single from the album is instrumental because so much of the album is vocal, but it’s not surprising that he kicked off the EP with “The Tempest,” one of the stronger tracks from Mosaic.
The other two tracks are instrumentals, but show off Tones’ production skills effectively. “Caedis” is a funkier mid-tempo groove that recalls some of the clatter of recent Amon Tobin, while “Summus” is cleaner with a buoyant stride and nice rhythmic details, heavy on cymbals and syncopation. Houndstooth has done a great job releasing music that often doesn’t easily fit into categories or genres, especially in a day and age where labels seem to often have a signature sound wherein many artists tend to sound alike. Throwing Snow breaks the mold in that sense, touching on sounds both familiar, new, and old, but in ways that feel personal, compelling, and rich.