When “Unguard”, the first track on this EP by Tony Quattro, hits, I was blown back. It’s a proper drum workout full of groovy shapes and accented sparingly by a synth line and vocal stabs. A perfectly unassuming intro, mixed well, gives you no warning of the wall of bass that holds you down while a drum line rattles your bones. This tune, in the mix, is gold.
And “Hippos” is the evil twin brothers of “Unguard”. They live in the mud under the porch. They came from the same womb, but something went horribly wrong. Drums roll eerily, flies buzz almost melodically, and the once warm and inviting bass is somehow now terrifying. All the same, it’s no less fun to listen to.
“Agua” takes a slightly different tack. It’s catchier than the other two tracks, but a touch less daring. Equally, as tribal, the afro-house vibe is more prominent, with flutes, big sky pads, and resonant vocals filling out the ensemble. This the lighter side of the darker atmosphere set in the first two tracks.
I love intros but don’t usually expect them to define the sound I’m about to hear. Most often they’re like interludes on old hip hop records – a chance for the artist to have a little fun before getting down to the “real” tracks.
But the intro on this EP does, truly, set you up for what you’re about to hear. Slightly off-kilter Kuduro beats set against organic percussion, horn bleats, and guitar chords. Soupy reverbed-out spaces and voices make you take off your headphones to make sure no one is talking to you. Misleadingly simple polyrhythms layer and build on and off of each other until you lose the downbeat altogether. All you can do is keep dancing…
“African Voice 06” hits the sweet spot for me, admittedly because it might be the most straight-forward track on the album. Voices like bird song ring out as a call-to-action, playing off the throbbing bass. It’s three minutes that’s over all too quickly.
And “African Whistle – Take Over Remix” wins as the most catchy tune. I look forward to hearing that on a dance floor.
Big, warm textures drop you right into “Moonlight” By DJ Icebox and Happysoul. The momentum of the bubbly riff is countered only by the steppy African beats and occasional sweep to mark time. Pads crescendo without wasting energy. Birds chirp and touches of melody echo in the distance. But unlike a lot of other SA house, Moonlight never feels brooding. It’s a lovely feeling.
“Long Jump” is is a train leaving the city. It’s pure rhythm, built by a huge beat and vocal blasts. But the anticipation of the journey and dramatic countryside only grow your excitement. The bass rumble turns into sneaky arpeggios, then grows with a full synth treatment. You expected to relax, but instead, you find yourself wide awake, taking it all in. Long Jump never lets up, until you come steaming into the terminal with a final shudder of joy.
Coming on like techno, tense like ghom, when the Afrohouse drone descends, it feels so good. The polyrhythm lifts you just off the ground, like teetering on the edge of the deep end of the pool, and then the vamps carry you away. It builds and builds, and with an “Opa!” starts all over again. It’s a delightfully breathless six minutes of pure pressure.
“Burn the Floor” from Wilson Kentura is a wide-open plain, drawn in Tron-like dayglo lines. The space is filled with beat and simple melodic tone that fits together, exquisitely. Rhythms play off each other, melodies and held notes do, too. It’s technically perfect while having a distinctly natural warmth. It’s organic without ever feeling of this earth. And when it’s over, it’s absence is felt.
“Jungle Jail” is a bit more subversive. The hypnotic backbeat carries you through a safari of sounds that paints you into a small room with lots of critters. A few might bite, but none are poisonous.“Burn the Floor” held you in place by filling up the space around you like quicksand. “Jungle Jail” instead wraps you in tension and compels you to wait to see what happens, urgent but mostly friendly. And the beautiful resolution on the piano in the second drop is so satisfying.
Right away we go deep with “No Days Off”, the title track from this EP from DJ JM. The grinding synths hint at a gothic decay while propelling the track through wet streets at night. The rhythms aren’t obvious and the Atmospheric details make this track. The second breakdown twists sideways setting you up for a gorgeous second drop. lovely stuff.
“Ray Mound”, whoever he is, follows suit. Creative drum patterns and vintage-yet-forever orchestra hits confuse the sense. This is one of those you’d hear off the back of an anthem Just before losing yourself in it.
“Mad Move” hits a bit more up front, with UK funky toms and afrohouse shakers. That might be TSVI’s influence. This one builds slowly but it’s worth it. Once we’re rolling, it’s hardcore tribal. Hats dip in and out, the perfect tension and release. There’s just enough melody to hold on to. Whatever you do, don’t let go.
“Bar Bell” is a weird one.
And finally, “Orignal Taste” might close down the night. Or settle well in that late night moment where you don’t know if you’re awake or asleep. The slowed down, drunken percussion lumbers along under big synth pads. A great end to a really solid EP that covers a lot of ground, just like this track.
© Bass Tourist