KOALA – Unnerve EP

By Jordan Moussavi

A seasoned producer and recording artist across many genres, Helsinki, Finland’s ‘KOALA’ returns to Munich’s Ruffhouse Industries with a cerebral four-tracker. At its best, the EP is experimental and eerie whilst remaining positively groovy and the percussive, bass-driven feel is right at home on Ruffhouse.

The EP kicks off with “Cloudwinds”, a hypnotic cut that puts KOALA’s funky/gqom stylings on full display. The track is introduced by rolling synths and holds real authority down low, the former slowly morphing into a syncopated thrum. Whirling stereo flavours stir the track into a gyrating dance tune, appropriately priming the record (and the listener)for what is to come. Desto’s remix is discordant and wild and will appeal to those who are fans of the more experimental side of electronic music.

“Infratom” wastes no time in slinking back to an eerie ambience, the bell-like main riff smacking of Playstation One era soundtracks. The offering is far from nostalgic, however–seismic bass shudders, drum rolls and a digital woodblock being struck with an uncomfortable urgency combine to create an altogether uneasy soundscape. Add in some crackling ambience and it begins to sound like Crash Bandicoot on a bad acid trip–something which is likely not as funny as it sounds.

“Hailstones” immerses the listener in a palpable tension and, much like ‘Cloudwinds’, seems like an appropriate synaesthetic title for the soundscapes explored. Droplet-like synths wrap around a gradually mutating bassline which is complemented nicely by the marching percussion beneath. At around 1:30, KOALA picks up the pace, flipping the track double-time as a snare-style roll starts bringing things to a boil. At 2:27 there is a real highlight of the record–a sumptuous, UK funky style halftime groove gets the head bobbing and it’s a considerable shame that the artist doesn’t riff on this idea just a little bit more. Thrive’s remix here is my favourite of the two, which sees the track reinterpreted as an intriguing, uptempo entry with experimental/footwork/trap influences.

Saving the best ’til last, KOALA concludes the EP with “Scale Off”, a track that bears many of the weird and wonderful hallmarks I enjoy hearing in experimental dance music. A simple synth, lightly coated in delay gets a nifty lift from the reggaeton/dancehall-style percussion whilst a potent sub anchors the whole thing as it goes on its rickety way. A discordant string counterpoint arrives and establishes a lovely melodic interplay and the track as a whole has a pushed feel rhythmical, which lends to the overall atmosphere very nicely. It is a melodic, haunting effort and represents KOALA’s best work, encapsulating the fine balance between the probing themes and the danceable vibes that he seeks to explore.

The EP is an excellent fit for Ruffhouse, whose best work and apparent philosophy involve the bassy, the percussive and the experimental. KOALA demonstrates his knack for experimental dance music and performs his best work when he is able to pair the explorative with the groovy.

With the EPs eclectic pairings and soundscapes, it is clear that the Helsinki, Finland, native has a demonstrable talent for creating boundary-pushing music–more exciting perhaps is the fact that he may yet refine his sound even further.

Posted on April 4, 2022