Photo: Danielle Petrosa / Courtesy of Clandestine Label Services

Jacoti Sommes Gets Spacey and Soulful with the Irresistible ‘Travel Time’

Ohio-based producer Jacoti Sommes creates a warm sonic world where trippy vibes coexist with funky jams on his typically strange, lovable new album, Travel Time.

Travel Time
Jacoti Sommes
Orange Milk

It seems strange that Travel Time is the first album Jacoti Sommes has released on Orange Milk Records. The artist and label seem made for each other. Orange Milk is based out of Ohio (formed by Seth Graham and Keith Rankin, the latter of whom is responsible for all the label’s mind-bending artwork). They are known for catering to unique artists whose music ranges from psychedelia to prog-rock to experimental synth jams. Sommes is from Columbus, Ohio, and fits right in with Orange Milk’s forward-thinking roster. Described on his website as “a prolific Ohioan multi-instrumentalist, composer and hardware maestro”, Sommes has also made music with the performance art band Hugs and Kisses as well as improvised dance music under his name.

With all that in mind, it’s important to note that Travel Time does not necessarily require an affinity for overtly experimental music. There is something innately soothing about what Sommes is doing here. Orange Milk is choosing to release Travel Time exclusively on cassette (and digital download), and it’s a move that makes sense once you hear the music. The album is decidedly futuristic but, at the same time, is a nod to the classic funk and spacey film scores of days gone by. Opening with the sustained synth washes of “Mars”, one imagines the opening credits of a John Carpenter or Ken Russell film. But Sommes seems more at home with head-bobbing beats, and “Subblue” follows “Mars” with glitchy funk that maintains a constant pulse even during the occasional quieter moments.

Three interludes, “Phase i”, Phase ii”, and “Phase iii” are interspersed throughout the album and contain little more than muted traffic sounds – they act as small palate cleansers. The first interlude leads into the intense electro-funk of “Pulse Start”, which brings to mind the synth-blasted funk of fellow Ohio natives Zapp. There are also intricate beats within a dark, moody atmosphere that recalls the 1980s film music of Harold Faltermeyer (or if you want to get even darker Tangerine Dream).

But moodiness is only one side to Sommes’ musical personality; there are plenty of moments on Travel Time that are blatantly positive and upbeat. Appropriately titled tracks like “Push On” and “Everything Is Fine” are miniature parties full of hip-swaying beats and complex synth figures that sound like they were lifted from video game sound cards. “Everything is Fine” propels the sugar rush even further with rousing, jazzy piano soloing that initially sounds out of place until you can’t help getting caught up in the mirth. Sommes is a master at combining a variety of seemingly incompatible sounds and somehow making it all work.

In fact, “Everything is Fine” is so effective at creating a lively, jazzy, funky atmosphere that it’s a shame the track ends so abruptly. I would have been fine with the song being a good three times longer. Likewise, the closing song, “Bear Bear”, is a relatively simple, low-key slice of funk, but the song essentially ends mid-beat after less than two minutes. If Travel Time is intended to be a tease-like sampler for what Jacoti Sommes has in store for the future, well – mission accomplished. It’s a fun, exciting – and too all-to-brief – ride.

RATING 7 / 10