Space Garden weaves through spirited synths and dejected beats, reminding us that the light cannot exist without the dark.

Floating at the surface of this album are ruins—ruins of the self as the unfeigned innards emerge. But at the core of Space Garden, where concepts of depression, death and anxiety loom, is the light. 

Flowerthief and Dephrase, the duo behind Optic Bloom, were content creating in their own spaces, until their partners encouraged the two to meet. Soon after they linked up, Optic Bloom was born. On their record, Space Garden, Flowerthief and Dephrase weed their individual paths and make room to grow. 

On “Vow To Be Free” we see this idea of ridding ourselves of the overgrown to forge ahead. Bleak piano and a static filter crackles every now and then like an old film as Flowerthief croons, “I’m making room for change means I’m making room for grief,” signifying that with change comes death—a part of them that must die. The duo is joined by two Hipstory collective members and fellow local artists: rapper and poet Oompa and sax player Tim Hall. Flowerthief sings about the kind of fear that can be debilitating, the kind of depression that can kill, but they don’t discuss the dark without acknowledging the light: “Fear got too much say in what I say and who I be / Depression want me dead while my love want me free.” Later, Oompa raps with conviction of the joy that she owns, joy that no one can steal from her. As the track approaches its end, she elevates in tone as she repeatedly recites the mantra of this track: “Depression want me dead, but I vow to be free.” Between Dephrase’s production, Flowerthief’s verses, Oompa’s bars, and Hall’s sax, this is a collective vow to be free despite all restraints. 

Change and freedom appear again as central themes on other tracks, like “Other Girls”. One minute long and not a second more, it’s a beautifully condensed story of gender identity. The track describes feeling misled by the body you’ve been assigned at birth, failing to meet the expectations of others, and the unsettling mindset that comes along with feeling misplaced in your own skin. Dimmed 808’s kick off the beat and curious bells and light tambourine-like sounds move about the air as Flowerthief sings, “I used to wonder if I’m even a girl / I used to wonder / I wondered if they could see me under / could you see me under?” These are only bodies, Flowerthief suggests, how could you possibly know who it is that walks within them? There’s a refreshing confidence that breathes here, a confidence strong enough to burst through the speakers and lend itself to the listener. 

Root Down,” too, meanders through the course of unsteady feelings. Sonically, this track takes off into the night sky with its thumping, windy beat. Flowerthief runs through a series of questions, a sort of self-assessment, that urges rumination of the life they’ve made. “Root Down” is about fighting the urge to run when the doubt floods in or when the boredom kicks in. They remind themselves to settle down: “Been working on this shit forever / trauma laughin’ in my face like you’re no better / healing hold my hand / healing let me land / said the flowers understand.” When the darkness settles in and Flowerthief begins to feel taunted by their trauma, stuck in their rubble, Flowerthief retreats back to their childhood, where flowers and herbs were vital healing components. 

A track that centers around defying inertia and demanding change, “Movement” echoes this fighter spirit. In protest against the evils that sneak in and stunt your growth, Flowerthief and local rapper Latrell James can be heard ebbing and flowing through this robust track with hopes for change. “Spinning Outro” slithers in soon after with its muffled, pulsating synths, shakers, and churning beat; Flowerthief is caught staring into the abyss shouting, “Where do I go? / I’ve been spinnin’ out,” as the beat morphs and decays. 

Optic Bloom teaches us that, when navigating the labyrinth of the self, stumbling through uncultivated paths and unravelling yourself from the vines that thwart your evolution are all part of the process. Seedlings don’t sprout overnight. One must maneuver through the dreary and bleak nights to watch the blooms dance under the radiant sky. Space Garden seems to reflect on the concept of time and how important it is to remind yourself that if we make it through the night—if we make it through the darkness—we’ll find our light. 

Catch Optic Bloom perform live this Thursday at Once’s Virtual Venue

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