Much like the joyous re-emergence of Ultramarine a couple of months ago, Knowing Looks represents the love WNCL Recordings clearly have for presenting otherwise overlooked or forgotten artists into the contemporary scene. Where West Norwood Cassette Library captured the hearts and minds of the wider bass music community just as the tipping point towards house music began, he is placed perfectly to share his knowledge and passion with a captive audience, and all the better for the likes of Jason Hopfner.
The Toronto-based producer had a minor breakthrough some four years ago on Akufen’s Musique Risquée label, but otherwise he has lurked in the hinterland of electronic producers brimming with exciting ideas that never manage to make a career out of their art. That was until he surged back onto the radar with his last deadly 10” for WNCL, and now he returns once again with yet more subversive and downright bonkers 4/4 abstractions.
“Listen To My 45” is the kind of track specifically crafted to sit uneasily in your ears on first listen; the combined elements are so disparate as to make very little sense initially. A quiet house beat ticks away while a guitar chord rings out underneath a mangled vocal insisting, “listen to my 45”. Things only get weirder as the unlikely groove gets agitated by further editing with that quintessential Canadian slice ‘n’ dice approach. By the time the saxophone wails euphorically over the top of the mix, everything makes a twisted kind of sense. It’s as wildly original as you could hope for a house track to be.
Pulling no punches, “Ghost Baby” darts into action on an uptempo micro-house groove lifted straight out of the annals of classic Trapez tracks, from the cheeky squeaks to the polite sub bass. Then the real meat comes in, adopting the form of a deranged synth intoning a discordant, jazzy melody that should freak the hell out of anyone unfamiliar with the quirkier end of minimal. Like all the best music from that era of the mid-00’s, there’s really very little minimal about the track by the time it hits its stride, as thick layers of percussion and other choice samples whip around that lead synth in a flurry of Ritalin deprived musicianship. By the time the amen breaks sneak into the mix there’s no denying this track’s ability to rock the dance as much as it might perturb it.