The Present Moment
Scott Milton has spent the better part of the last decade crafting the discography as The Present Moment. Over the course of three records the LA based songwriter and performer has grown his knack for clean, catchy melodies and melancholic arrangement into a recognizable aesthetic that nods to the past without excessively aping his classic inspirations. New record Split fits nicely into The Present Moment’s established milieu, offering a small but satisfying suite of catchy new romantic gems, delivered with Milton’s understated charm.
As with so many of the project’s best moments to date, the best songs here have an instant familiarity to them. That ability to conjure new songs that feel as though you’ve known them forever without being retreads of actual classics is am impressive feat, and Milton shows it off across on Split. The “Follow your heart/Things fall apart” bridge on “New Day (In Another Dimension)” is simple, but the way it gives way to the rising synth bassline of the sweet, soulful chorus is an expert bit of songcraft, effective because it seems so effortless and obvious. Same with the violin lead that opens the doors on “Looking In” – the song’s pensive mood is accentuated by surprisingly funky guitar and a fuzzy bass breakdown that contrasts wonderfully with Milton’s studied delivery. They aren’t flashy songs, but there’s a cleverness and proficiency in their execution that makes them stand out.
As the title suggests, the record is literally split down the middle in terms of songwriting and production with Philipp Münch and Jason Dunn, and each brings an aspect of the project’s influences to light. Check out how the bubbling 16th note bassline and staticky snare on “Waiting” evoke Absolute Body Control, while the Moogy-synth and fretless bass sound on opening instrumental “Red Salve” tastefully brings to mind Gary Numan on the Münch half. Dunn’s work on the other hand has a glammy, Japan-like quality, fusing playful synthwork with electric bass and stabs of guitar on “Piece of You” and “Running for Miles”.
And yet it’s Milton’s comfortable delivery on vocals that might be the secret sauce on Split. Never stooping to a vocal imitation Milton lets his own distinctive baritone ride when it needs to, and gear up for a big emotional climax when called for. Like everything else on Split it’s a continuation of what drew us to The Present Moment in the first place; a wistful evocation of the past that somehow also manages to feel new.