During the last year, the phenomenon of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, has grown from a curiosity of fringe artists and binaural beat shut-ins to an online subculture. Described by the ASMR Research and Support website as "a physical sensation characterized by a pleasurable tingling," ASMR usually stems from specific sounds, particularly whispering. A series of YouTube videos, for instance, attempts to invoke that feeling by combining the sounds of whispered words and crunched potato chips. Surreal? Of course, though the goal is not to entertain but to elicit an unconscious physical or psychological response.
While not intended as an ASMR prompt, the lambent new age sounds of Sponge Bath's vinyl debut, Golden Light, possess similar qualities. The project of Carrboro's Nathan Taylor, Sponge Bath has long trafficked in luminous, physical house music. On a recent tour split with Patrick Gallagher, Driven By the Night, Taylor leapt from dark ambient stuff to springy acid house and back again. Here, though, he settles in, incorporating new levels of depth and humanity into his sound, now ready-made for close listens and goose pimples.
On "Golden Light (Club Mix)," a calming spoken-word sample floats above Taylor's lush atmospherics and rigid bass runs, playing shaman to his divination. The dilated voice urges the listener to imagine Zen-like scenes, such as "walking on a spiral staircase, filled with golden light." A spare, buried synth keeps time. Taylor splits the sources into their constituent halves for "Spoken Mix" and "Dub Mix," but when they rendezvous, Taylor pulls off the necessary trick for so many great house tracks—being visceral and gorgeous at the same time.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Beat Life"