“There are bands that have been acting ruthlessly in the shadow for years, in a completely confidential manner, then one day chance (but does chance exist?) makes you find one of their recordings, listen to it, and at that moment you could kick yourself for not having discovered these soundscapes earlier and you try to find all of them.”
London based label Don’t Be Afraid have already demonstrated their love for a concept with the recently launched affiliate Spargel Trax, and news arrives of another conceptually charged offshoot in Don’t Be Afraid Dubs.
It’s safe to say we’re not short of a record label or two these days, but inevitably with quantity comes a great deal of filler. The whole idea of an imprint varies from person to person; to some it’s a mere vessel for transporting an artist’s wares, to others it’s an artistic statement as strong as the music contained within. For this writer though, a real record label is an idea to be bought into, where the instantly identifiable packaging and canny curation create an addictive end product that rewards the faithful explorer. There’s no greater feeling as a music hunter than following the thread of a choice record that leads to a pristinely managed label, revealing a back catalogue rich in unfamiliar gems.
It’s refreshing when the glut of over-familiar music gets blasted away by a starkly original voice in the cramped township of electronic music. It’s fair to say that the level playing field of the 21st century has given rise to a fair few stand out voices; a pleasant reminder of why the so-called democratisation of music can be a truly positive thing. Enter then Chairman Kato, fresh out of the blocks this year with just one digital-only release to his name prior to this EP, the aptly named Science & Romance. The overall feeling exuded by Kato’s music marries a weighty amount of sound manipulation to heartfelt artistic expression, both technologically adept and emotionally rich at the same time.
A quick point of reference might be Actress, who similarly uses the traditions of techno as a springboard for stranger things, although Kato stops short of getting quite so oblique in his outlook. “Pressure Differential”, for example, really kicks underneath the thick, squidgy layer of fuzz, tone and grainy noise, while the lead synth still manages to press its features through the murk to create a discernible outline. “Unspoken” provides a case in point of how Kato manages to combat his avant-garde tendencies with a rock solid funk, maximising on the off-beat in the same way Floating Points does. All the while the bed of noise proffers up mournful tones to ensure the Romance part of the EP is still well catered for.
If the original material is strange enough, then the next logical step is to draft in someone of Ekoplekz’s ilk to really go to town. His own analogue punk aesthetic compliments Kato’s approach perfectly, and the resulting dubby nightmare sounds like a natural continuation of the original track that came before it. After all that murky mess, Andres’ aptly titled Detroit soul rework comes off bright and breezy, although that might not be the case in a different context. Still, the rough, dusty beats fall with ample room around them, and the woozy fuzz gets reined into a dreamy loop that leaves your palette perfectly cleansed after all that sonic jiggery pokery.
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