Sargeant X Comrade
Lo Fi Future
Mo Gravy Records
Calgary, AB
RIYL: Witch Prophet, Erykah Badu, zen futurism

“Catch me if you can / Cuz I’m a hologram,” Yolanda Sargeant teases over a relaxed bass groove, squiggly synths, and the patter of a hand drum in the opening title track of Sargeant X Comrade’s latest dispatch, Lo Fi Future. A playful challenge as much as it is an open invitation, the lyrics embody the spirit of the album at the same time as they capture its tension, Sargeant flattening time and space in a breath: “The perfect combination of past, present, and future.”

A play on the lo-fi soul epithet Sargeant and Evgeniy “Comrade” Bykovets have used to describe their music at least as far back as their 2020 full-length debut Magic Radio, Lo Fi Future suggests real-world applications for the laid-back intimacy the duo captures on its recordings while grappling with the technological dilemma of futurism itself.

The title track yearns to trade a digital footprint for physical connection, but “Travelin In Space” enthuses about leaving the world for another dimension; on “Whachu On” they praise “sweet songs that cannot be replicated by the cyborgs,” but “Incredible Science” advises “You better have that crypto if you wanna do business.” It can be jarring to hear the pair take jabs at technocracy two years after launching their record label with an NFT collection, but it gets at the truth of artists trying to navigate an economic landscape that devalues their work, and that isn’t always as chill and uncomplicated as the music might sound.

If it’s full of the kind of downtempo ease and cushy vibes that might inspire curators to drop similar sounding records into utilitarian mood playlists, Lo Fi Future resists such passive listening applications, declaring “This is the opposite of a lullaby” while clutching close the therapeutic pillows and weighted blankets that make modern life moderately manageable on album closer “Wake Up,” slowing down to share perspective instead of feeding the fire like it’s all well and fine.

If the pair imparts a kind of zen in the face of all this, it’s because they’ve emerged from those material conditions equipped with a standpoint that can dissemble them. So when Sargeant coos “Everything in this world is made up” on the chorus of the album’s two-part Prevail-featuring “Escape the Matrix” suite, it feels less like nihilistic hand-wringing than it does a revelation that these constructs are only as valuable as the meaning they’re imbued with. In an economy designed to atomize, Sargeant X Comrade rise above by investing further in the relationships around them (the album also includes features from Flytrap, K-Riz, and Odario) — slowing the world down to bring about the future they want to see.

– Tom Beedham