Sometimes, perhaps even oftentimes, musical works are best described through reference to visual art. This is the case with Entropy, an indie-folk-art EP full of sonic goodness that was recently released by Buffalo-based artist T.K. Lipps. While acoustic guitar, keyboard, and drum machine form the base Entropy, the artist’s use of instrumental timbre combinations, vocal harmony layering, and textural effects throughout the EP add variety and flavor. The EP’s artistic quality reminds us of another well-known Buffalonian: painter Charles Burchfield, whose watercolor nature scenes capture dynamic movement through the use of self-invented symbolism and a rich color palette. Like Burchfield’s body of work, this EP from T.K. Lipps traverses and explores a range of moods, using physics as a lens to do so. In the artist’s own words, the EP was written, “for your moments in the wrong place at the right time...or the right place at the wrong time.” It contemplates and examines the “inevitable rise of chaos in [one’s] relational life.”
The EP’s subdued yet captivating opening track, “Beauty Fades,” is the most pop-oriented of the group, beginning with resonant kick drum and finger picked acoustic guitar in the style of early Mumford & Sons and Shakey Graves. The track is beautifully orchestrated with light piano, synth effects, and delayed electric guitar. After a pause, the beat drops with synth bass and a boutique drum machine. It’s a cool mix of real and electronic instrument tracking that flows naturally beneath gorgeous vocals pleasantly attuned with a hint of reverb.
Middle tracks “Entropy” and “Upside-Down” offer a more artistic-experimental side to the EP with some unanticipated chord progressions, more relaxed tempos, and higher priority given to ambient shoegazey effects, vocal harmonizers, and sampling. The attention to texture in these tracks is noted in the quick appearances of numerous instruments, including ambient synth pads, various keyboard tones, electric guitar, and orchestral strings. While the instrumentation is diverse, the textures are never overwhelmingly thick, as individual instruments are used sparingly and subtly, thereby allowing for myriad warm vocal harmonies to shine through. Despite similarities in texture, the two tracks are notably at odds thematically - “Entropy” discusses the feeling of being at home, while “Upside-Down” refers to displacement and a feeling of incompleteness.
From there, we’re immediately transported to the southern crossroads in “Still Waters.” A cool bass line grooves under nimbly picked acoustic guitar, laidback fuzzed out blues licks, and clear vocals. We hear strains of an Ed Sheeran sound-alike who grew up on the Delta instead of in West Yorkshire. The track ends with an electric guitar solo rising into a bright major chord, clearing a path from the dangerous soul-selling crossroads and delivering us to the EP’s final, introspective track. “Tunneling” begins with a chocolatey smooth pedal note in electric piano lightly accompanied by clean electric guitar and ambient rotary sound. The tone here is more tender than in previous tracks. The electric piano timbre and upward melodic cadence coupled with the track’s soft blues guitar licks gives the impression of a modern church hymn with John Mayer stylizations drifting gently from the choir loft.
The overall experience listening through Entropy is that of a Sunday morning meditation session, not least of all because the EP’s slow-moving textures, short melodic motifs, and repetitive lyrics are reminiscent of mantra chanting, ambient gong baths, and other mind-calming techniques used in many types of meditation practice. At just over 15 minutes, Entropy is definitely worthy of a full, uninterrupted listen while you sip your morning coffee before any daytime hustle and hassles arise. Listen to the full EP below and then keep an eye out for future projects from T.K. Lipps by following the artist here.
T.K. Lips - Entropy