Juan Ramos opens his debut album with The Problem With Ambiguity and Finding Space—speaking to a societal confusion, a fragmented sense of self, and a pull toward many (often unwelcoming) directions—this turmoil in which he’s spent considerable time, sees him invest grave eﬀorts to express the inexpressible. Changing Hands is a time capsule of that dark period in his life, an overtly honest musical diary which puts his emotional coming-of-age on full display, hoping to reach kindred listeners. While his previous output for the ESP Institute used a certain level of complication to push limits on the danceﬂoor, this immersive work cuts deep in to a frayed psyche, dismantling our preconceptions of Juan and plunging listeners deep into a stew of jarring textures, incomplete phrases, and circus-like abstractions of pop culture. There is a nonchalant and unhurried experimentation that accumulates over the album’s ﬁrst half—disconnected and anxiety-riddled personality traits constitute various musical roles, sporadically converging in ﬂeeting moments of optimism although never fully climbing out from the abyss—and yet amidst this chaos there is a watershed moment in which the artist successfully gleans a golden morsel of hope from his emotional junkyard, guiding us across the threshold into the album’s second half while diligently protecting the glow of this rock bottom treasure. Juan begins to reveal his inner b-boy—a distorted view on golden-age Hip Hop roots, an aﬃnity for muddy break-beats, sultry loops and metaphoric interludes—the crown prince of a newly-found safe space. It’s as if he had us searching on all fours for a misplaced joint, but now that it’s ﬁnally lit, he assures us that everything’s going to be alright.
Published: 2nd July 2019