“Bonder” from Rocket Empire & Amber Sparks

I’ve been having a little trouble getting started this eve. I was thinking maybe going euphoric, or at least, mildly uplifting. After all, we witnessed a piece of history burn today (Norte Dame Cathedral, if you’re just tuning in). And that totally sucked. But I couldn’t really commit to anything … or more preciously, seize the inspiration I needed to make that commitment happen. Unfortunately, those mental blocks sneak up on all of us, and erect invisible barriers between thought and actualization. Essentially, feel good wasn’t in the cards tonight.

So I’ll take what’s given. And that’s when I stumbled upon this musky, murky, hazy little downtempo groove titled “Bonder.” It’s from a Portland-based duo called Rocket Empire, and features Amber Sparks, who seems to be a frequent collaborator. Now, I know absolutely nothing about these guys, nor Amber, other than what I’ve gleaned from their brief bullet-point bio. It essentially says Rocket Empire, a.k.a. Jon Cates and Dave Dish, have been honing their craft for the past 15 years, creating four texturally rich lo-fi albums of electronically fused acoustic audioscapes. I added the flowery descriptors for that last part.

I have to admit that the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “Bonder” is Tycho … or more precisely, the organic flavor and naturalistic aesthetic that characterizes that NorCal fourpiece. Rocket Empire coasts along like-minded waves, aiming to chill and groove at the same time. With this track, they’ve got a bit more kick in their step, keeping the tempo rolling in a rhythmic haze of analog synths and warm taut percussion. There’s definitely a progressive ride going on, steeped in an aura of ’70s infused spacey sci-fi vibes and vapours. It’s slightly otherworldly, metaphysically mind-bending, hippy-ish, and strangely comforting, if you allow yourself to settle into the right headspace.

“Bonder” reminds me quite a bit of the organically brewed indie electronica that often exists on the fringes of early morning DJ sets and sunrise desert raves. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up in a Tycho Burning Man set, or something of the like. It works on that level and in that space, as does much of Rocket Empire’s material … at least, the tracks that I’ve heard. And I’m pretty confident that these guys will be making the morning rotations in my workplace, whenever I get command of the sound system. They offer an easy-riser sound to start the day off relaxed, level-headed and imbued with just the right measure of groove.

On that note, here’s Rocker Empire’s “Bonder” as intro to all things downtempo, chilled, and tripped up with lazy high rhythm. Enjoy!

“Bonder” from the 2016 album “Sky Float Sun.”