Andrew Stephens is a Wichita-based creative director and freelance designer. From a quick glance at his portfolio, one can surmise that Stephens possesses a knack for crafting some striking visuals. Website design and layouts, magazine ads, album covers, he seems to experiment with every form of physical media. Stephens’ diverse work exemplifies his willingness to dive into unexplored artistic domains at a moment’s notice. He understands how to engage his audience and he does so with passion and care. The same can be said for his music. As a founding member of the hip-hop/downtempo duo ills, Stephens and his comrade Kyle Cramb dropped a succinct EP of electronic beats soaked in moody atmosphere. It exhibited Stephens’ (and Cramb’s) competence as a producer and illustrated Stephens’ desire to articulate stories in sonic spectrums. Now under a new moniker Scattered Lodges, Stephens goes it alone. With this new project comes fresh experiments, different sounds; gone are the beats. In their absence, lush soundscapes and immersive ambience rise to the forefront.
Scattered Lodges debut EP Asymmetric Soup is a sundry of sounds splotched with delectable synth movements. Tracks are etched in a dark ambient template. Inside them, Stephens explores a medley of moods and textures, gently corrugating his framework with subtle impressions of awe. This allows each composition to exist as its own microcosm of experimentation. It’s quite asymmetric if you listen to each track in isolation. But with Stephens’ skillful precision and his clever concatenation of the word ‘soup’, he melds his various angles and modifications on dark ambient into a near symmetric listening experience.
An aura of mystery trickles from “Umami, Pt. 1”. Synths swirl overheard, shrouding listeners in comforting darkness. Hypnotic drones enrapture the senses with cosmic bewilderment. “Come On, Annihilate” ruminates in gloomy headspaces. Coarse resonances grate the song’s atmosphere; a soft voice quivers behind a veil of sodium twilight. It’s unnerving yet unbearably light. Thrumming bass and quiet gusts of drones on “Out of Body” offer a moment of introspect. “The Atoms We Share” teems with eerie melancholy. Pangs of reverb smother every molecule, but a sense of wonder exudes from the song’s fibers. It feels conflicted with itself. It’s as if it’s trying to overcome the crushing weight of existence. Asymmetric Soup concludes with “Aperture”, a pleasant glimpse into an unknown pixelated world. Reminiscent of classic 2D exploration games Stephens paints the sky with synths that beckon for adventure. It wanders over grassy knolls illumined by nostalgia. So warm and delicate, you will long to return to Asymmetric Soup as soon as the portal closes.