The human condition is one of life’s greatest mysteries—to put in the words of Michael Scott, “why are you the way that you are?” White Lights explains what it means to be human in an ambitious exploration of mental health and electronic sounds on his debut album, NUMBSKULL. Comparisons to Flying Lotus are apt, thanks to the distinctive approach White Lights takes when it comes to his R&B-inspired compositions. NUMBSKULL is trippy, in the sense that it turns your listening experience inward—each song feels more like a place. White Lights acts as the listener’s tour guide, steering them through an emotional terrain filled with a menagerie of musical styles.
The Brooklyn-bred producer immerses his voice in sounds that stick to the sides of your mind like putty, melting and stretching to fold the psychedelic instrumentals into sentimental, sometimes abstract lyrics. Traversing a variety of genres, White Lights leans into the experimental facets of jazz, R&B, pop, and indie rock to form his hybrid vision.
On “Floating World,” White Lights asks, “are we floating nowhere?” Existential questions are frequently posed throughout the album’s 25 minute runtime. At times, it feels as if we’re privy to White Lights’ personal conversation with himself, which can be emotionally affecting and distancing all at once. The lyrics are thought-provoking and dense, and require repeat listens to fully absorb what they’re trying to express. The lyrics seem to hold great meaning to White Lights, but are open for interpretation to the listener, allowing them to bring their own human experience into play when unpacking the verses.
Moody, experimental R&B-leaning song structures lend their form well to a variety of textures and instruments. Tranquil strums of guitars are rippled by skipping percussive elements in “Worn,” while “All At Once” pairs rattling footwork rhythms with a cascading piano that glitters across the sonic landscape like a shooting star.
As a body of work, NUMBSKULL is an impressive debut from White Lights, and solidifies the producer as a poignant voice of indie-electronic “antipop”.