Arfa’s “Freefall” is a thrilling EP that shows a remarkable command of space, displaying the rare skill of concision in electronic music. “Transit” kicks things off, a scratchy 2-step beat, thudding kick/sub combos, and woody hits do the bulk of the lifting, with reverb and delay-washed stereo work doing the rest.
“Pacing” is next up, and goes about doing just that—setting pace. Warm sub and bass tones are even more present in the second track, with droning synth strings and dreamy pads elevating the track to the ethereal, gently lilting to rest midway through before returning to its dizzy heights.
“Motions” sustains the vibe, carefully cranking up the intensity with warping basses that occasionally lean into speed garage sensibilities. Succinct ostinatos on the keys serve as the preferred punctuation throughout, and the whole track carries beautifully through the night—a prime cut for the after-hours listener.
The record ends ambitiously, with “Freefall”, which, rather fittingly, is the longest entry on the release. Switching up styles, but retaining much of the hazy atmosphere that characterizes the previous songs, Freefall skates on top of smooth jungle breaks and spacy vocal/synth work, peaking and dipping off to match the ebbs and flows of the rave”s many dancefloors.
Freefall is a smooth, immersive ride through UKG and jungle sonics, wonderfully showcasing the idea that less, is indeed more.
Quirky garage hits give way to a UK funky beat which dissolves into electro madness, and then kuduro… “1471” by Bass Clef is the darkest carnival roller I’ve heard. This is one of those tunes that every DJ looks for. It’s five delightful minutes of post-garage vibes, but it’ll never age.
“Get on the A10 and Drive and Drive” is an alien grime riddim meant only for the bravest. Hard snares descend into drill-n-bass-style mayhem over spacious squidgy bass. But it’s only the first wave. So you have no idea what happens when huge synth pads descend like the mothership.
“One Hundred Point Three” is what Burial would sound like if he lived in the movie, Tron.
And on it goes. The album gets weirder and weirder, exploring Squarepusher jungle, itchy IDM, and shimmering, disorienting ambient. It’s an extremely thick 43 minutes of music but a rewarding listen, end to end.
Martyn comes consistent with “Frozen Bread Snaps”, starting off this EP on a deep, orchestral vibe. Brooding basses rumble under melancholy strings and garage chords echo in the distance. Soft and warm, Martyn always knows how to create an atmosphere.
The atmospheric pressure changes with the second track “Door of Gulf” by Sin Gremlinz and Jesta. “Door” harkens back to my favorite period of jungle and drum and bass, when a Guy Called Gerald and Photek kept things steppy and dark. Beautiful elements of space and pace roll along, consistent but never repeating.
Noire brings in the UK Funky vibes with “Ballas”, serving as a great transition as the tempo slows. It’s deep and tribal but has the same big open atmosphere as the first two tracks. For the headphone crew, listen closely, the details hidden way in the back add a really nice natural feel.
We close with “Dusty Glass Bubbles” from Parris. The track drones and hiccups, while bubbles, as the title promises, float by. The simple, delightful little beat sneaks in and out. Overall, it’s a beautiful moment in time, stretched out into the five minutes before you have to come up for air.
At first listen, this EP felt a little incongruent, but the consistency lies in the spaces created. Each track might paint the same open field, just at different times of the day. And each painting is beautiful and deserves study.
© Bass Tourist