Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat’s debut album, 9, is an overall solid first attempt and a long time coming. He’s been consistently expanding his body of work since the release of the playfully electronic Mirror Maru EP four years ago, more recently has had the opportunity to work with the likes of Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, and even Kanye West (to name only a few). This debut album too is full of high profile features, distorted digital sounds, and vocal manipulation, each song a journey of musical ideation through the combined force of both Cashmere Cat and his various pop powerhouse guests. It’s a good release but perhaps lacks an overall vision of what exactly it wants to say. However, despite this, there’s a lot of interesting ideas and talent here to make the album an overall pleasant listen, leaving me excited for future releases and productions from the reclusive DJ.
One of 9’s strengths was the collaborative effort between each featuring artist and Cashmere Cat. Almost every feature on this album is a credited writer for their respective track, allowing each song to have a unique personality while also being musically cohesive through Cashmere Cat’s production. It seems each artist brought their own musical ideas to the table and Cashmere Cat listened to their input and then carefully considered how to craft an atmosphere that embodied the style of the singer while still maintaining his own musical vision. It was very easy to listen to a song like “Quit” and think, “this definitely sounds like an Ariana Grande song” and yet it still made sense musically for it to play after The Weeknd and Francis and the Lights “Wild Love” and before Ty Dolla Sign’s “Infinite Stripes.” The fact that Cashmere Cat was able to highlight and embody the uniqueness of each of his features while still maintaining an overall thematic cohesion for this album is quite impressive.
One of my favorite tracks on this album, “Infinite Stripes,” highlighted this collaborative strength. Ty Dolla Sign’s style differs the most from 9’s other featuring artists and Cashmere Cat’s usual pop-electronic production. And yet, through the digital manipulation of Ty Dolla Sign’s voice (a ubiquitous theme on the entire album), and the surprisingly alternative R&B style that resulted, the song doesn’t seem out of place on the album overall. I would not have expected a track like this from either Ty Dolla Sign or Cashmere Cat but it’s success is a solid representation of the cool things that can happen when two very different artists come together with the goal of creating good music. Overall it seemed Cashmere Cat put in a conscientious effort to not only spotlight his own musical ideas but also clearly express the strengths and atmosphere of each featuring artists, resulting in unique musical combinations that are a fun listen.
One problem I had with this album is that it seemed unpolished, as if some songs or sounds (especially the jarring electronic noises sprinkled throughout) had yet to be mixed and blended into other aspects of the production. I thought the more spacious sounds (the strings, airy synths, and digital manipulation of the singer’s voices, for example) were done extremely well. However, the addition of the rather abrupt and obnoxious electronic sounds felt counter to these musical ideas and didn’t fit well together. As if these were ideas that Cashmere Cat was exploring but never was able to find any clear cut solutions for. I thought this was especially clear on songs like “9 (After Coachella)” and “Wild Love.” The atmospheric quality centered around each artist’s unique performance is so satisfyingly ethereal. But then those electronic distortions just pull you right up and out of the mood, leaving you with an uncomfortable and unsatisfying feeling. I also had a problem with the end of many of 9’s tracks. They were often half a phrase and/or strange unexplored musical themes and the flow of each song seemed to never end resolutely or cleanly. Less like it was done on purpose and more like Cashmere Cat is confused about how to successfully end a piece of music (or even how to structurally create flow in a single track).
Because of the incomplete quality of many of the songs and the jarring electronic distortions, I found I didn’t like one song completely from beginning to end. Instead, I especially liked specific parts of every song. I really do think Cashmere Cat’s skill lies in creating atmosphere in relation to an artist’s voice. However, his sole solo endeavor, “Victoria’s Veil,” was definitely a fun listen and it was very heavy with same sounds I found so unsatisfying on other parts of the album. Now if only he could somehow successfully combine that style with his ability to create atmosphere and manipulate artists’ voices… Regardless, I am still interested to see what else he can bring in the future (and also if he can figure out how to use electronic distortion in conjunction with singing and also how to properly end a song).
Overall, my favorite songs from this album are “Wild Love,” “Quit,” “Infinite Stripes,” and “Victoria’s Veil,” (that maybe would have been my favorite if not for the awkward last 45 seconds…).