In addition to his work in Ratatat, Evan Mast aka E.VAX has spent the last few years providing squiggly, ecstatic beats for rappers and singers. He’s spent ample time in Wyoming with Kanye West, producing the organ-heavy “Selah” for his Jesus Is Kingalbum and the loping “Reborn” for West’s collaborative album with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts. Working outside of Ratatat, and as a producer for others has been the bridge to return to his solo music.

2021’s self-titled album takes elements of lo-fi, low-key hip-hop, hazy new age music, and glitchy electronica, adds the occasional vocal sample, and stirs it together with a gentle touch to come up with something that’s sneakily good. The individual songs may be a little unassuming at first as they roll by like waves on a deserted beach, but by the end they amass into a soft tidal wave of feelings pitched just to the side of melancholy. The record is a little too bubbly and light to be sad, but it’s still not anything one would be tempted to throw on to get the party going. A few songs, like the strutting « Always » or the percolating « Manila, » come close to rocking the house, but something about the way Mast drapes moody synths over the kicking beats and pop-lock basslines keeps them from catching fire. Which is fine, especially when the rest of the album is so relaxed and alternately subtly pretty (« Anything at All »), thoughtfully intricate (the drum & bass adjacent « Kolkata »), and like a lost Ratatat album side minus the big-beat bombast (« New Words »). Not to make it a competition, but with his former partner in Ratatat releasing an album under the name Kunzite so close to the release of this one, it’s hard not to. The scales tip fully in favor of E*vax in almost every way. Better songs, stickier melodies, and more interesting production help make it not only the better record by a member of Ratatat, but also something any fan of calmly melodic electronica ought to check out.

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