Musician Pachy García’s life took a devastating swerve during the fraught summer of 2020. Following an illness, his mother suddenly passed away. Several months later, right as the ink was drying on a record deal for his solo project Pachyman, his father died. “It was the worst and best year of my life,” García says. “My parents were super influential and super supportive of me wanting to do music, wanting to leave Puerto Rico…I’ve been in bands all of my life. All of a sudden I get my big break, and they’re not there.” A veteran of bands like noise-pop provocateurs Prettiest Eyes, the Los Angeles-based García has always worked through things with music. But faced with these devastating losses back to back, his drive to create evaporated. For a full year he couldn’t bring himself to write. But when the 2021 Omicron surge temporarily shuttered businesses throughout the city, including where García works, he was forced to sit with his thoughts. One day García ventured down to his basement recording studio, 333 House, and tried to let loose. He found that a lack of expectations “liberated me from the fact that I needed to work on music,” and songs cascaded from his brain. These experiments morphed into his new album, the reggae and dub-drenched Switched-On. The follow-up to 2021’s The Return of Pachyman, it’s out on September 29th via ATO Records. Every moment and flourish heard on the record is intentional, down to the equipment he used. The refurbished mixing board that García utilized to mix the album is the same model Lee “Scratch” Perry had at his legendary Black Ark Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The album’s title, Switched-On, gestures to García’s chirring synthesizers, like the Roland SH- 01a in the effervescent electronic interlude “Mi Sala,” and the Korg Poly800, that form the spine of these songs. The name of the album is an homage, too, to the generative artistic era when musicians first began manipulating synthesizers to emit gloriously off-kilter bleeps, bloops, and whooshes. García first became interested in reggae as a young man growing up in Puerto Rico. Forged by ingenious musicians, distinctly Jamaican riddims wended their way into Boricua sonic traditions over the years. In the 1990s a Puerto Rican strain of reggae emerged, flush with cheeky humor and higher-pitched harmonics. These complementary influences surface on the enchanting “Toyota Nuevo,” a tune buoyed by a reggae backbeat and the percussive patter of a güiro, an instrument often used in Puerto Rico fashioned out of gourds plucked from a higüero tree. And “Sale el Sol” calls back to his life in the Caribbean, with a deconstructed rhythm and a repetitive vocal pattern greeting the sun that rises each morning. “We have a very good sense of wanting to move and knowing how to play music that moves us,” García says of Puerto Rican artistry. “So that seeps into the music.” While conceptualizing Switched-On, García gravitated towards listening to Lovers’ Rock-era reggae and transmissions from the iconic Studio One Records — a thread that surfaces in “Goldline.” The song, inspired by García’s job at a hifi listening bar that plays a lot of disco and funk at night, intentionally pulled at a “Studio One disco-soul vibe” with a splash of dub mixed in. But through the writing process for Switched-On, he realized that his past two solo albums, In Dub (2019) and The Return Of Pachyman (2021) had been a direct response to the sounds of his musical heroes, especially King Tubby and Scientist. García reached a creative crossroads. “Okay, do I want to continue being a cloth cut from my heroes or do I want to become my own artist?” he asked himself. “Do I start bringing my complete ideas and being more myself rather than trying to emulate my favorite artists?” For Switched-On, García challenged himself to steer his songwriting towards another dimension. A bold step forward from his previous work, this creative evolution emerges on “You Looked at Me,” fusing a mesmerizing, Krautrock-esque beat with synth musings reminiscent of bands such as Boards of Canada and his own minimalist vocals for added texture. His ear for expansiveness comes through the winking “Trago Coqueto,” a cheeky love song crooned through the prism of a cocktail named after a flirty lemon-ginger drink. In a uniquely Pachyman twist, it acts as an ode to his life in Puerto Rico. It couldn’t be a more fitting testament to Switched-On’s ethos, which meditates on García’s conviction to move his art forward while simultaneously honoring his roots.