Penumbra, Nick Sanborn's new EP, is a complex, thumping set of instrumental pieces that shouldn't be overshadowed by his work in Sylvan Esso or Megafaun.
Nick Sanborn may be best known as half of Sylvan Esso, the electro-pop outfit that put out their breakout debut last year. Before that, he was a member of Megafaun. But his other project, Made of Oak, is not to be overlooked in the shadow of those other acts. Penumbra, Sanborn's new EP, is a complex, thumping set of instrumental pieces. It's an album that vacillates between the driving beats he made for Sylvan Esso and the glitchier experiments of Megafaun -- yet it sounds like neither. The title tracks floats along on faint notes -- some keys are struck, some faint atmospherics haunt the space around them -- but it never feels light. Rather, there's a faint clacking, something that sets the whole thing off-kilter, so when you rumble into the buzzing "Pinebender", you're not surprised by the shadowy heft and bittersweet hooks in the tune. Penumbra shifts seamlessly between those drifting spaces and stomping beats. It goes from stargazing to kicking up dust enough that they almost start to feel like the same thing. On closer "Blue Zipper" both sides crash together, suggesting that this isn't about reflection leading to action, but rather that the two are one in the same. Penumbra's ambitions make it feel like it's just getting started when it cuts out. That it leaves you wanting more doesn't make the set feel short. Instead, it feels like the start of whatever comes next.