See Tai is the name taken for this project by Louisville based producer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Jamey See Tai. He has made a name for himself as a member of and main songwriter for the instrumental post-rock band The Photographic. He has worked more in recent years scoring films, providing remixes for musicians and bands like Jim James, Daughter, and Beni, among others, and producing original music. His latest single release “Neon Dream” boasts a bright electro pop sheen and has immense stylishness evident from the outset. It, likewise, has a sharp focus running just under three and a half minutes long and the production values are much higher than we might associate with indie pop. It is an overall excellent presentation for listeners of various stripes.
There are many keys to making its presentation so memorable. His unusual vocals are not present from the beginning, but their light nasal quality proves ideal for the material. He doesn’t possess a traditional voice, it isn’t a trained instrument in the classical sense of the term, but he nonetheless inhabits the lyrics and musical landscape with palpable emotion coming through in each line. The mix blends his voice well with the instrumental accompaniment without one ever overshadowing the other. The latter portions of See Tai’s vocal abandon the straight forward sonic approach taken for the bulk of the song in favor of an echo laden sound that accentuates the song’s mood.
The arrangement is a mix of electronic instrumentation and traditional instruments. See Tai employs a drum machine for the song’s percussion but it avoids any of the sterile aural qualities we so often hear from this type of drumming. There are “live” guitars incorporated into the mix and they provide a marked contrast to the aforementioned electronic instruments without ever coming into conflict with them. The synthesizers providing background color for the track is never obtrusive and has a sustained presence for the entirety of the track.
See Tai’s words for the track are evocative and impressionistic without ever striking a pretentious note. Instead, “Neon Dream” mixes imagery and light exposition in a potent stew See Tai elevates with his on point vocal phrasing. He takes great care to give the lyrics a fair hearing for listeners and, while they never attempt remaking the songwriting wheel, they carry a signature style without any immediate reference point. The same focus he brings to the musical arrangement affects the words as well – See Tai is a believer in no wasted motion and delivers the song with an overall economy many listeners will enjoy.
“Neon Dream” is a formidable artistic creation, light-footed while retaining obvious substance, and has lasting value as either a standalone single or early harbinger of an EP or full length release to come. Louisville, Kentucky doesn’t necessarily seem like fertile ground for this sort of performer or music, but “Neon Dream” gives lie to that supposition and shows that the most interesting music can emerge from unlikely locales. Let’s hope there’s more to come.