It’s been approximately five years since Jonathan Ng first sat down at his computer in his Dublin home and uploaded his first song onto his SoundCloud account, under the moniker The Eden Project.
Since then, he’s released 3 EP’s, changed his stage name to EDEN, amassed over 186,000 SoundCloud followers, seen his YouTube videos watched by over 20 million people, played Electric Picnic among some of the biggest festivals in the world and signed to the same management company as Justin Bieber. All of this before his 21st birthday.
At only twenty-one, EDEN has experienced a lot, and ‘Vertigo’ marks his debut into the world of the albums. Clocking in at 52 minutes and at thirteen tracks, it is the statement EDEN has been waiting to make. His unique blend of synth-lead electronica, string instrumentation, and emotive vocals guides the listener through the mind of an artist who left everything behind to pursue his art. While this album has no difficulty in grabbing your attention, it does have issues keeping it.
The album opens with Wrong, a brief track made up entirely of a combination of vocal lines lamenting a partner’s whittling commitment to their relationships. As the album continues, themes and general song-structures begin to emerge. Guitars, piano, strings, and reverb make up a sizeable portion of the instrumentation, while the lyrical contents circle around the themes of heartbreak, disappointment, and loss. Unfortunately, as these themes emerge so often, they begin to become somewhat predictable and lose their forcefulness. While there is nothing wrong with having an individual sound, sticking so ardently to a blueprint, as it sometimes seems is happening here, leaves listeners grasping for more. Looking back on EDEN’s previous releases, you get the sense that Ng is capable of so much more than what he’s offering here. While his ‘END Credits EP’ felt thematic and film-like, this album, at times, feels like a somewhat predictable novel.
This is, however, far from a bad album. The production quality throughout is fantastic, with the caliber of the electronic elements bordering on phenomenal. The song Lost//Found is a gem, comprised of an unmixed, acoustic recording of a guitar and EDEN’s vocals piercing through the silence. It’s moments such as this, moments when you get the sense that EDEN is most at home (like the iPhone voice recordings sprinkled throughout the album), that the album shines brightest.
The highlights of the tracklist include the single Gold, which is by far the most energetic song on the album (its bass and finger-clicking chorus offers one of the highlights of the whole record), and Forever//Over, which features starry, dream-like instrumention which harks back to previous EDEN releases.
Unfortunately, these moments are not enough to save the album. There are glimpses of the magic that fans expected and will have hoped for from EDEN, but in the end, glimpses they shall remain.
It’s clear that after an eventful two years since his last EP, EDEN had some things to get off his chest, and it’s admirable that he’s used his debut to voice such feelings, but, unfortunately, it might not have come off in the way in which he had intended.
It was a risk, and while it may not have fully come through this time around, it’s important that the listener doesn’t lose hope for an artist who still has so much potential. The magic is there, we’ve seen it, it’s just a case of waiting until it’s ready to show its full form.