At some point in the creative process, making a work of art should be deathly uncomfortable.
Working through that necessary discomfort and fighting against complacency becomes the thesis of Seattle-based producer Sango’s sophomore album, In the Comfort Of. At 26, Sango has made himself a staple producer, working with DJBooth Top Prospect Dave B, as well as Tinashe, Bryson Tiller, DRAM, GoldLink, and more.
In the Comfort Of has had its fair share of false starts over the past five years, following the 2013 release of Sango's debut album, North, but while the anticipation was killing fans, the constant announcements and delays only helped shape and refine the narrative of the record. Sango is in the pursuit of wholeness, and with this album, he is ever closer to his goal.
To achieve comfort and security, there is a requisite period of loneliness and discomfort. Without pressing play, we see Sango has executed his theme in structure alone; the first arc of the album is nearly featureless. Titling is key in this arc, as it allows the religious allusions to play a cardinal role in developing the mood. The production featured on the first act is skittering and anxious while remaining dance-driven. Sango drops the listener off at a house party of one, where to dance is to cope and move through your demons.
The second arc is marked by languid vocals from Jesse Boykins III (“Twogether”) and JMSN (“Chemistry”). Their tracks mimic the subtle changes required to grow, which then compound on “Khlorine” and “Rude.” Smino and Jean Deaux respectively re-situate the album as a buoyant romp free of the hang-ups and pleas of the first arc, namely the insatiable “Speak.”
The ebbs and flows of growth are present as well. The textures, wobbles, and minor chords of “On Me” illustrate the push-pull laden in progress. There’s a meditative moment on the featureless “Implications,” which melts into the despondency of “Changing Channels.” James Vincent McMorrow laments a spiraling stagnation with a vocal that nearly dissipates into thin air before a piano grounds the track and tempers the sentiment.
In that breath, In the Comfort Of is an album obsessed with intent. Of course, with any producer record, there is an additional layer of craftsmanship to ensure the core emotion of a track is enhanced by a vocalist, to ensure the core emotion of the album is enhanced by the sequencing.
While the album has several moments of becoming and overcoming—“Speak,” “Khlorine,” “Changing Channels”—there are instances where the music stares down at the floor. The obvious offender here is “One More Thing.” While the title is cheeky, the song plays out like a needless epilogue to “Speak,” deadening the momentum of the album and causing the grand swell of “Speak” to putter out.
The album does regain its momentum, and most excitedly comes to a head on the final track, “Comfortable.” London-based singer Ryan Ashley drives the cut with his heavy vocals. There’s a hurt and mealy quality to his singing that blankets the production and tugs at your heart, further emphasized by the ghostly backing vocals.
Where the album plays in arcs, the final track is also a three-act production. At the top of the second act, Ashley’s voice brightens and “Comfortable” evolves into a beacon of light for artists. The track becomes a refuge for anyone with “cuts upon your fingers… your blood upon these pages.” Ashley continues on, promising to erase our scars and lighten our lives. With the heavy religious themes of the record, we could peg “Comfortable” as a personification of the benevolence of God, but the tune is wholly touching regardless of your religious affiliation.
To say In the Comfort Of is laborious would be false. To say that it captures the peaks and valleys of personal growth with an unfiltered lens is far closer to the truth. Despite the slew of setbacks and false starts to deliver this record, and five years removed from his debut album, Sango reveals himself as a true empath.
Making an album that sounds like spring is easy and welcome, and luckily will never become trite for as long as snowstorms exist. But Sango went beyond the call of compiling sunny themes and made an album that thrives off of its specificity and its ability to exist in transition: winter to spring, disjointed to the whole. In the Comfort Of is enveloped in prayer, hardship, overcoming, and gorgeous swaths of sound. It's Sango’s best album to date, and as a promise for an even brighter future.
Three Standout Tracks
“Dance For Blessings”
A purely instrumental cut, “Dance For Blessings” reads like a command as well as a plea. The track is packed with textures, yet far from claustrophobic. Sango flexes his understanding of composition here, allowing each layer to breathe and grip us.
“Khlorine” ft. Smino
One of the most joyful moments on the album, Smino delivers a sunny verse at a pivotal moment for the record. His hurried flow is nearly a call to action in the battle Sango’s music wages against stagnancy.
“Comfortable” ft. Ryan Ashley
The opera within the opera, “Comfortable” is a masterclass in following through with your themes, moods, and structures. Ryan Ashley’s range brings us to the final grand moment of closure on the album.