Hourstone “Milky Way Rising” (SINGLE)

Stunning but straightforwardly delivered verses adorn a dark neon melody as we become entranced by a bassline just waiting to come alive beneath the surface of the mix. There’s a slight tension in the air as Hourstone laces the beats with Amanda Kang’s velvety vocal, yet the tempo of the music behind the pair is moving almost in slow motion, creating a fetching contrast that will drive the track’s proceeding three-and-a-half minutes of might. This is “Milky Way Rising,” the all-new single from underground experimentalist Hourstone featuring a potent guest appearance from Amanda Kang, and it’s got critics from one side of the scene to the next abuzz this spring.

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There’s nothing conventional about the instrumental structure employed by Hourstone in this track, and the same can be said for the lyrics on their own. Unlike a lot of similarly stylized fodder from his scene, the duality in this piece is surreal by design, seemingly meant to stir us not only sonically but emotionally as well. Kang’s colorful delivery comprises the direct narrative here engages us in a way that complements the tonality of the music exceptionally, and through Hourstone’s self-aware poetry in her verses, we’re treated to lyrical content that counters common indie pop themes with more intimate and personable ones. There’s an abundance of surreal pop artists trying to do what Hourstone is doing with “Milky Way Rising,” but few are getting nearly as intriguing of a result in the studio as what we find here.

Again, the instrumental aspect of this track is as much of a mood-setting device as Kang’s tender vocal occupying center stage. After a closer look, I concluded that of all the action going on in this song it’s the rich harmony between Hourstone, Kang, and the synthesized grooves that act as the main centerpiece in “Milky Way Rising.” The beats, the techno-style melody, and every other musical element are stylized to accommodate this harmony’s gargantuan wallop, and though it’s larger than life by virtually every artistic measurement, it never becomes so overwhelming in the grander scheme of things that we feel smothered by the sonic indulgences in the single.

Hourstone keeps getting better and better with time and judging from the present creative trajectory that he’s on, I would have to assume that his best work is still ahead of him. “Milky Way Rising” raises the bar for both his music and the expanding techno scene in 2024, and for my money, there aren’t very many actively in the game today that are turning out the evocative material that he is at the moment. You don’t have to be a big pop fan to be able to appreciate what Hourstone and Amanda Kang have done in this track, but for those of us who love great indie melodicism, this is one of the more sophisticated listens to be released this spring for sure. It will be interesting to hear the follow-up to this piece, and with any luck, it might include the likes of Kang or another worthy collaborator in a similar vein.

Mark Druery