Short Circuits 2 - By Volume

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Short Circuits 2

Laurel Halo, James Holden & Koreless feature in Tayyab's newest wanderings through electronic excellence. Author: on May 24, 2013
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Laurel Halo – Sex Mission (Hyperdub, 2013)

More often than not, when I talk to others about Laurel Halo, her interesting manipulation of voice becomes the focal point of the conversation. I’m not interested in that as much as I am by her consistent cases for being considered a formidable beatmaker. Still reeling from her dub version of “Sunlight on the Faded”, “Sex Mission” hits me with full force. It’s the cymbal work that impresses first, isolated with a hazy vocal-sampling loop. An uneasy pulse forces its way in before submerging the beat beneath an oceanic, pattering melody. There’s a slight industrial lean too, with the claps adding to that vibe, but it doesn’t stay anywhere for too long; I can’t fathom where Laurel Halo takes the song after it as she throws a number of elements in the way, basslines and skittering white noise swims with exotic rattles and vocals. It’s not often you get house music this experimental with so much free-roaming flair – credit to Laurel Halo for fully fleshing out the ideas on this one.

James Holden – Renata (Daphni Remix) (Border Community, 2013)

James Holden returns with an arpeggio escapade in the form of “Renata” but it’s Daphni’s typically percussion-heavy remix that left my jaw ajar. It’s similar to his album named after his label, JIAOLONG, in that it’s overflowing with creativity, even if it means compromising well-rounded, accessible execution. The humming loop eerily sets things into motion while drums pick up amidst buzz and whirr, as if the track was spinning off from The King of Limbs. Distorted robotic samples accompany Holden’s arpeggios and elements of the original begin to sneak in, propelling things out of control and winding down with bleeps and bloops akin to the cries of a dying android. And like malfunctioning machinery, the rest of the record plays out in an outrageous manner; There are four segments, each serving as a slightly different epilogue. In some, the bassline or reverb may be accentuated, the keys might come back or Yorke-like murmurs ride the groove. Daphni dares to explore all the different paths the production might have gone down, while providing some killer loops as a by product. Throbbing garage and eclectic psychedelia never came together so perfectly to produce something so fresh and astoundingly hypnotic.

Simian Mobile Disco & Bicep – Sacrifice (Delicacies, 2013)

Bicep’s DJ sets put them above their contemporaries, however their house productions always seem to come down with a frustrating case of almost-but-not-quite. Coming together with dependable club music mainstays Simian Mobile Disco seems to be fruitful. Sacrifice retains the untroubled simplicity so typical of Bicep’s tracks while Simian Mobile Disco apply some much needed depth, turning filler into something with sharper edges and a stronger spine. The festival tent-ready melody is easy on the ear, though it does need the deep chord stabs to get the body moving. Hi-hats drive the track onwards but the extended synth movement to build up to the climax comes as a trick well-worn and feels more token than innovation. Thankfully the drop itself has a little bit more substance on what is generally, a good tune that if anything, tells a tale of worthwhile compromise from its two artists.

Koreless – Sun (Young Turks, 2013)

I think Koreless’ Yugen EP was meant to be listened to all the way through, with several stages and intertwining yarns that weave the narrative together, still, I want to single out the first notable track that surfaced before the release – “Sun”. From the offset, there is plenty to take in – seamlessly stemming from the opening track, a note repeats over and over like a broken record, carried by deep percussion and plenty of tentative fuzz in the background. It sounds like what would happen if native Americans were given Ableton – and it sounds like something amazing is about to happen. And then, it arrives: one of the most bland synths I have ever heard. The chord progression is on point, the higher string-like sounds are wonderful and when the earlier elements, having given the rest of the track some room, are masterfully brought back in you know that Koreless’ sonorous quasi-ambient arrangements are truly glorious. Regardless, the lead synth throughout the track feels agitated and suspicious, simply lacking the elegance of other areas of Koreless’ productions. A solid story, with perhaps a false protagonist – my sheer dislike for one piece of the puzzle serves to emphasise the quality of the rest.

Traxman – Footworkin On Air (Planet Mu, 2012)

Footwork has been around for a while, existing as a culture connecting the producers and dancers of Chicago and being pretty much unique to the area. Thanks to the productions of artists such as Machinedrum and Addison Groove, the genre has reached entire new audiences – though they’d be the first to tell you footwork is not a fad and it does have a tangible history. Planet Mu could be called the predominant label when it comes to juke/footwork and it’s on here the full-length release Da Mind of Traxman translates the creations of Traxman. More than a dancefloor/battleground-oriented record, it documents Traxman’s experiences as a major figure in the scene – whatever type of media one chooses to tell their story, the intro is essential. Enter “Footworkin On Air”.

Instead of assaulting the listener with a combination of drum samples, as is habitual for such a movement-based genre, Traxman sets the scene with a marimba, that saunters over clear ground until the gentle kick and decisive claps make their moves. The marimba loop is spacious and flutters over Traxman’s playful drum machine deviations. The bass is subtle, far from overpowering and serves the track with the added texture, like herbs would flavour a dish. The result is a dizzy, dazed wander through clouds as literal as the track name suggests. I’ve rarely heard a more endearing start to an album and Traxman perfects the dream-like vibe that so many try to capture yet so few are successful in doing so. Any expectation the listener might glean from the album artwork or other footwork pieces is dashed out of the window as soon as the album starts – such is the moral of Traxman’s first fable: the surface has barely been scratched.

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