There’s something special happening when you decide to listen to a truly weird album. It might not happen every day, because there are lots of great three-to-four-minute songs out there to fill your life with catchy beats and great hooks. But sometimes a moment comes when you decide to push your sonic barriers. It’s always a gamble; you could find yourself listening to repetitive noise that doesn’t give you time to think.
That’s not the case with Anteloper, the jazz-and-electronica duo behind Pink Dolphins, an album you likely will not find recommended to you by any algorithm (I found it on Bandcamp). It’s the product of jaimie branch and Jason Nazary, who have been working together since they met in the late 2010s in Boston. The name came from the idea of an antelope who’s an interloper, who’s not quite welcome on the scene.
Pink Dolphins opens with a sound not unlike echolocation, piercing tones that move in and out as a drum keeps the rhythm. It might sound initially off-putting, but power through. Around 1 minute, 30 into “Inia,” you could find yourself hooked into the still-developing rhythms, which give off a feeling of in-the-moment creation. And then, a minute later, the sounds of a jazz trumpet wailing out in quick rat-a-tat-at, and you’ve suddenly landed in a whole new song.
The process of listening to Pink Dolphins is exciting because it’s one where both active and passive listening is rewarded equally. There’s the active listening, in which listeners trace the path from “Inia” through “Delfin Rosado,” as the horns wail over electronic wavering and the plunks of what sounds like a xylophone. How are they doing this? What are all these sounds?
And then there’s the passive listeners, who put on an album like Pink Dolphins, get acclimated to its environment, and then suddenly you’re jolted out of whatever long-read you’ve kept in your tabs for too long when the sound completely changes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the album’s centerpiece “Earthlings.”
The first words on the album come on its third track, with branch informing listeners of what they’ve probably already gathered: “We are not the Earthlings that you know.” She says this without the intent of shock, it’s just a statement of fact. Besides, the music is speaking louder than branch could. The sounds of “Earthlings” are lazy and drifting, a cosmic blues. “I was lightly tripping on LSD and checking out [producer Jeff Parker’s] loop when the melody came to me,” branch says in the album’s press release. That is, until they are called to attention by that trumpet again, offering rapid-fire blasts that wouldn’t feel out of place coming out of a ram’s horn on Rosh Hashanah.
The album moves into electronics again, ever shifting. Nazary describes the last track, “One Living Genius,” as “fully exploring those underwater cavernous sounds, the drums dropping deep bass pillars, while Jaimie’s synths swim circles in and around.” He’s not wrong. The album becomes increasingly hard to describe, with the metaphors needed to match the sounds becoming more and more abstract. It sounds like noise. Good noise.
This might not be the album that gives birth to a million TikToks. But it will make you think about every other song you hear this week a little differently. Pink Dolphins is the perfect chance to push your sonic imagination. The rest of your playlist will thank you.
David Meir Grossman is a writer living in Brooklyn. His Twitter feed is @davidgross_man.