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Stones Throw

A few years ago, Dan Snaith’s Manitoba (now Caribou) released Up in Flames, a record that melded bottom-of-the-pool harmonies, cruddy guitar swirls, and the odd intuitively dropped over-the-top drum break. It was an alien thing that swooped in and blew up your record collection. Snaith showed underground beatmakers the limitless possibilities of psych-hop—the backward guitar loop and the genius of a Ringo drum fill—but his follow-up, this year’s Milk of Human Kindness, displayed one of psych-hop’s unforeseen drawbacks: a tendency toward devolving into aural wallpaper for hipsters. (In other words, it can easily become music for Volkswagen ads and Hugh Grant movies.) Snaith’s sometime tour mate and like-minded crate mate Koushik captures the promise of this micro-genre perfectly on his recently released three-EP collection Be With. Unlike Snaith, this 27-year-old Vermont-based Canadian smartly avoids psych cliché by cloaking his songs in beats that owe more to Prince Paul than the Pretty Things. His mellow-gold affectations—New Agey synths, horn honks, and pinches of bass poppin’—serve more as cute counterpoints. Each song on Be With doesn’t start so much as it wakes up—sometimes to pimp it, sometimes to check into a Sun Ra loft party, sometimes just to bump blearily into things, mumbling about early My Bloody Valentine. Still, the songs all have places to be. What makes Koushik worth repeated listenings is that he renders those places only vaguely; the key to Be With is that it succeeds at being mysterious. It’s music dipped in some serious tranks, all soft and bent and distorted, at once dime-store and lush. On the title track, Koushik’s voice washes in and out, his words muffled enough that you won’t know what he’s cooing. On “Battle Rhymes for Battle Times,” the funky breakbeat segues between cascading fake harp twinkles and cartoonishly noir horns. The collection ends with an extended loop of Spanky & Our Gang’s “Like to Get to Know You” that ends up sounding as warped as a transistor dropped into MF Doom’s bong water. By then, you’ll answer that invitation with a resounding no. Koushik’s faraway sound collages are just fine that way. —Jason Cherkis