The streaming era has opened up the floodgates for people looking to make music, but the chief indicator of breaking through is still sheer quality; Sam Gellaitry has that rare quality.
Writing twice about Sam Gellaitry for PopMatters’ end-of-year coverage in 2015, I, correct at the time, referred to the now-20-year-old Scottish producer as trafficking in the Soundcloud trap genre. And, while this is still where he draws from a smattering of influences from and, as one of the premier purveyors of the sound, influences it back, the progression he’s shown since breaking out in 2015 with the Short Stories EP is one befitting an artist who has grown up musically in the critical eye. Escapism III, the third in this titular series for uber-cool XL Recordings, settles into a consistency that should elevate him for years to come.
The EP opens up with "Jungle Waters" and that song, in turn, opens with a celestial string section that is reminiscent of the score of the only good Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film adaptation before stopping for a brief respite of thumping bass a la "LONG DISTANCE", the marquee track from Escapism I and probably the trilogy as a whole. But it’s in the prolonged strings that Gellaitry shows his first bout of progression: previous genteel moments on his records were masked in either cloudy effects or simply muted, while here, the instruments in his expanded arsenal get the star treatment. That a moment of trap snuck in indicates either a reliance on past tropes or he’s seeing where the genre can go from its present state; at his young age and relatively limited catalog, time is the truest indicator here.
One new wrinkle to Gellaitry’s longer-form releases is the continuity between tracks. The opener, by way of a mysterious synth, seamlessly flows into its follow-up, "Ceremony" and so on throughout the five tracks of the EP. Really, though, that fact is the only notable one about "Ceremony", a run-of-the-mill demo by its sound, acting as a holdover period for the immediate analysis of "Jungle Waters"’ new direction while setting up the impressive closing trilogy.