The Same Page by Kate Simko and Matt Tolfrey – Leftroom Records
Collaborations happen for all sorts of reasons, and in the case of Leftroom’s next EP, it’s proof that not all festival hook-ups fall into the category of VIP-room ear-chewing or main-stage fist-pumping. Label head Matt Tolfrey and Kate Simko made best use of post-DMF studio time last year, and despite a protracted gestation as two forever-busy artists tried to mine the summer’s chemistry, the results have proven to be worth the wait, with a trio of fantastic housers that combine the musical skills and production experience of the duo.
Take It Easy opens pacily, its shimmying bassline and chord combinations giving the track a live feel as the different melodic strains feed into one central strand, resulting in a track that’s both brimming in energy and also exhibiting a jazzy, laid-back structure. Lazy B gets to business more directly, the edgy chord rotations counterpointing the analogue stabs as pads and groovy fills provide fleeting changes in focus. No Shame completes the trio, exhibiting a more ethereal feel, the chords sinking into the reverb over the sub bass and slappy snare, the deepest of the trio. The EP’s an example of what can happen when two artists click, and must surely lead to more work together on this evidence.
Box Clever by Huxley on 20:20 Vision
With recent work on a clutch of UK labels, Huxley’s star is on the rise. It seems scarcely believable that it’s less than three years since his pairing with sometime partner in crime Ethyl surfaced on Cecille, but 2012 has already seen a sterling EP on 20:20 Vision and an outstanding release on Hypercolour. With a sound that’s as much in debt to some of the classic house the UK’s produced over the last twenty years as any contemporaries, Huxley’s return to Ralph Lawson’s label is just as enticing as anything that’s been put out in his short but glittering career up to now.
Box Clever combines piles of piano chords and strings with warm analogue basslines, completing the perfect symmetry with a mysterious female spoken vocal, as wistful as it is combative. It may borrow themes from years gone by, but the ideas are all the producer’s own. Atonement is punchy, tracky house that leans to New York’s percussive roots, but shoots chords like machine-gun fire, cleverly using filters to build and release pressure. Out Of My Mind turns ninety degrees, its choppy percs straddling d’n’b and dubstep with vigour, the sparse melodies swimming through lush pads. Closing out is Feel What You Want, a track that could easily be from ten years ago, with filters washing the notes into a summery crescendo on what’s another superlative display of the producer’s rare talents.
Level Abstain by October and Borai – Never Learnt
Dean Muhsin and Cian Frawley’s fledgling imprint issues its second release in April, aiming to build on the success of its first EP, Nyra’s superlative Best Of. Eschewing pigeonholes and moving from the tracky, atmospheric dubs of its first release to long-time friend Julian Smith and collaborator Boris English for a pair of fathoms-deep housers that show that while the sound is switched, the quality remains. October and Borai’s pedigree points in the right direction, with the Caravan label boss and Bristolian sharing almost a decade and a half of production experience, and justifying the slab of vinyl that Never Learnt bestows on them.
The title track opens with moody stabs and crisp percussive hits, setting the scene for a submerged groove that draws the listener in through intricate sonic patterns and multi-layered, fx-laden elements, never letting a form emerge for too long before a deft swerve into another direction. Washed-out pads and vocals inhabit the middle space of the track, and the latter part is dominated by woozy, collapsing swathes of synth, giving a result that never loses focus but never feels static. Vital Ital Rub employs similar delay-drenched vibes over a purposeful low-end and muffled percs, exhibiting a looseness that allows the ideas to flow unrestricted over its nine minutes. This is definitely late-night music for dark dancefloors, house music to lose yourself in.