Mellow isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of the Denver-based Plastic Sound Supply label, but Sean Byrd's Always Was fits the bill. And, despite whatever negative connotations the word might normally have, in this case mellow isn't a bad thing—think of understated, refined, or restrained as possible synonyms. Of course, bear in mind that mellow is meant comparatively here. Strip away the Plastic Sound Supply association and, on its own, Byrd's well-crafted material is certainly dynamic enough to suggest that perhaps mellow isn't such an apt descriptor after all. Regardless, his is a resolutely atmospheric music first and foremost, which to some degree might be explained by the fact that, when not creating original tracks, the Atlanta, Georgia-based Byrd also composes music for television shows and films. Clearly the man's developed a sensitivity to sound and mood, and it shows in the material at hand.
He's also clearly absorbed a plethora of styles, as recurring hints of funk, jungle, IDM, dubstep, ambient, and even drum'n'bass peek through the cracks of the album's eight tracks. Typically a given piece weaves said influences (and even a voice sample, too) into something that resists being easily slotted into one category, though many a cut exudes the polish and multi-layered complexity of a prototypical IDM composition. After the title track's dubby sparkle inaugurates the album effectively, a dubstep-like bass growl slithers through the undercarriage of “Inside” at the same time as icy textures give the brooding piece the kind of sheen one associates with IDM-electronica. Vague traces of dancehall and drum'n'bass seep to the animated surface of “Woke Up Missing You,” whose haze of classic IDM and ambient treatments otherwise rapturously glistens and gleams. The album's most satisfying piece is also its most unassuming, namely the closing “Something That Pulls.” It's here where one finds the recording's sweetest and most delicate melodies, and the project's all the better for it. To be frank, I don't hear Always Was as competing for any Album of the Year honour, necessarily—it's a bit too atmospheric for that—but there's no denying its craft.