Dustin Wong / Takako Minekawa

Are Euphoria

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On Are Euphoria, Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa take their already vivid music to dazzling new heights. While it would be easy (and probably inaccurate) to say that their debut Toropical Circle was led by Minekawa's contributions, and its follow-up Savage Imagination found Wong taking the lead, their third album still feels like the best balance of their individual and collective gifts yet. As they combine the sun-dappled melodies of the former with the slow-building structures of the latter, they craft sound sculptures full of wonder and delight. "7000000000 Human Elements" starts big and gets bigger, adding more and more layers of lilting guitars and radiant vocals to kaleidoscopic effect. It sounds like many people were involved in making it, but in reality, the duo added just one person: Co La's Matthew Papich, who was also Wong's partner in the revered Baltimore outfit Ecstatic Sunshine. Though he's listed as producer, the way he helps Minekawa and Wong animate these songs makes him feel more like a third member of the project. Thanks to a hearing problem Wong suffered while making the album, Are Euphoria is in constant motion, most notably on "Benbelo," where arpeggiated synths and acoustic guitars pop in and out in an equally sophisticated and adorable fashion. "Akubi"'s call-and-response percussion evokes Raymond Scott's pioneering experiments while its shimmering melody adds another surprising dimension, and "Zaab"'s shift from jagged electronics to gentle acoustic instrumentation captures the full scope of the duo's artistry. The album's calmer songs are still intricate, with the rippling "Haha Mori" conjuring a laughing forest and "Electric Astral Peel" juxtaposing the playful and mystical sides of Wong and Minekawa's music and emphasizing how important both are to their music. Are Euphoria is folky and futuristic, innocent and artful, and experimental and approachable. Most importantly, it bubbles over with joy, and captures the sheer pleasure of being -- and being together -- from a pair of artists whose collaborations only become more rewarding with each release.

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