OK, so our round-up of April’s best EPs has arrived a tiny bit late, but with records by Dellux, Miloux and Mikael Lind featured it’s definitely been worth the wait…
Dellux – Dreamer
Newport’s most widespread contribution to popular music in recent times was the Jay Z parody ‘Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind)’, but that might be set to change with emerging Welsh producer Dellux. Barely out of his teens, and having already graduated from the city’s Dnb and dubstep scenes, he now looks set to do to England what his footballing compatriots failed to inflict on Rooney and co. yesterday.
The Dreamer EP is a solid statement of intent, taking the sharp cuts of ‘Missing U VIP’ and the title track and sanding down the edges into impeccably tight grooves. He refuses to stick to any one particular style though, pouring a more potent sort of petrol into the grimy ‘Pipe Up’ and stand-out track ‘Beat01633’, while ‘Fool’, featuring Beckii Power, cruises at a more chilled pace (not so much to my taste, but with a nice midway crescendo). The impression is of a producer not even certain himself what he’s going to produce next – which makes for an appealingly unpredictable listen.
Gris-de-Lin – The Kick
Not many records open with a track inspired by a local newspaper’s rugby report. Judging by the title track on Gris-de-Lin’s The Kick EP, this creative method should be employed more often. The Dorset multi-instrumentalist kicks off with a few puffs of sax, peppered with percussion and sliced up samples, before suddenly slipping into something surprisingly crisp and clear. It sails into your ears like an Owen Farrell punt through the posts.
There are shades of early Tunng to Gris-de-Lin’s playful, folk-tinged musicality, and this continues through the rest of the record. ‘Your Ghost’ sails towards the folkier side of things with a melody worthy of The Unthanks, while the fingerpicking verse and gusting chorus of ‘Birthday’ is more Farao-esque. ‘Fireworks Begin’ is the only track that falters; despite the presence of longtime PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis, it all just feels a little too earnest. Apart from that, there’s plenty to get a kick out of here.
Mikael Lind – Intentions and Variations
Easily the prettiest artwork of the week, and probably the most aurally soothing release too. The Iceland-based Mikael Lind has produced a record of stirring, significant depth, that unfurls far further than you might initially expect. Take the title track for instance: at first it sounds like it could be the work of any number of tranquilized modern classical pianists, which is nice enough in itself, but then it quietly explodes like a firework in super-slow motion, shooting warm, distorted drones in every direction. Lush.
These gradual eruptions are repeated throughout Intentions and Variations, folding over each other like vast ladles of viscous sound. The satisfying drones provide the bulk, but the occasional sprinkling of piano on the likes of ‘Sleeping Pauper’ keeps you returning back to reality rather than simply drifting off into the ether (to be honest, sometimes that ivory wake-up call isn’t entirely appreciated). ‘Unyielding Rocks’ is, as the title suggests, probably the most durable track here; the tones are dense and fulsome, streaked with shinier frequencies. Every one of Mikael Lind’s Intentions and Variations provides more than enough material to get lost in though. By the time it’s finished, you might not want to be found.
Miloux – EP 1
Miloux appears from the milieu (sorry) of Auckland, and her debut is the best smart-pop record to have emerged from New Zealand since Lorde broke through. In fact, it surpasses her compatriot’s efforts on most levels; just take the lead track, ‘Pocket’, which features one of the best top-lines I’ve heard in an age, complemented by breathily rising backing vocals. It’s a peach, and it’s swiftly followed by another: ‘Me and Mine’ not only features some gorgeous mellotron chord progressions, but boasts a ridiculously catchy RnB chorus.
Clearly Miloux has a gifted vocal instinct, and further proof comes on ‘These Rules’, which sees her really let loose – the wordless vocals towards the end drift and soar as if caught in a glorious melodic gust. ‘Hold It Back’, meanwhile, does just that. It’s a more minimal affair, but still includes the odd jazzy move (it’s in six-time for a start). ‘Beaches’ is the only track that doesn’t catch light, being more of a typically balladic closer, but it doesn’t detract from the impression that Miloux has the chops to gain an audience far beyond her Antipodean locale.
Ocdantar – Time In Flux
Staying in the same region we find a similarly promising record courtesy of Australia’s Ocdantar. The producer has indeed spent a lot of ‘Time In Flux’ during the making of this record – six years apparently – and it certainly sounds like it at points. The record opens with a spoken word sample intoning “stop thinking you’re special”, but there’s something at least a little bit special about ‘Agoj’. At times it comes across like a ravier Hype Williams, woozy tones inter-cut with spliced up synths and samples. It’s ruddy good.
Ocdantar seems to delight in occasionally throwing tiny spanners into his machinations, such as the almost irritatingly brazen and off-beat plonks on the otherwise breezily euphoric ‘Techno 15’. ‘Sky Sea Client View’ is calmer, enlisting Liahona to provide a trip-hop style vocal to a wavy synth motif that recalls Boards Of Canada (here the unexpected texture is added by what sounds like a slightly anxious robot frog ribbiting in the background). ‘Sad Child’ is not quite as successful a vocal track, too similar to so much of the other downtempo electro-quicksand out there, but the fragile instrumental ‘Nao’ and similarly diaphanous ‘0102’ see us off into the darkness with plenty of optimism for Ocdantar’s next release. Hopefully it won’t take quite as long to arrive…
Roots Manuva – Switching Sides
Obviously a whole bunch of exclusive new EPs were released for Record Store Day, and obviously a whole bunch of them were shit. This was one of the few exceptions. Coming off the back of Roots Manuva’s best album in a decade, Switching Sides shows that this new purple patch is far from exhausted – even if it does contain two of the same tracks (‘Crying’ and ‘One Thing’).
Of the new tracks, ‘Watch’ is the one that really bangs, exhibiting the full Roots Manuva range from the slurred, spirit-drinking depths to hyper West Indian bravado, aided by the best beats on the record. ‘Iron Shirt’ also comes hard, featuring vocodered choruses and plenty of digital scuttling. The last new track, ‘Body Hot’, benefits from some funky minimalism and finds Manuva in frisky fettle, a bit like ‘Buff Nuff’ but for a slightly darker dancefloor. As on Bleeds, the only sides you’ll be switching here is from Side A to Side B, and back again.
Waskerley Way – Nexialism
Having already been charmed by the bubbling lead track ‘Finisterre’ a while back, I was intrigued to see if the rest of the record it sprouted from was as delectable. The mentally unbalanced ‘Tough Prey’ certainly doesn’t disappoint – it’s like finding yourself caught in a digital hailstorm and taking cover in an abandoned shed, only to find a creepy-voiced weirdo lurking in there already. The discordant ‘Advanced Busterhawk’ (what a name) has a similar effect; it feels like what might have once been quite a pleasant techno track after being put through the wash.
Weirdly, the more accessible Waskerley Way get, the less fulfilling they feel. The beat on ‘Bullet For Days’ seems too formulaic in comparison to what we’ve already heard, although the Terminator-worthy synth part gets more enjoyable every time it repeats. ‘Nexialism’ feels almost sunny in comparison, albeit the sort of sunshine that makes exposed skin blister, but it also sounds a bit like Spiritualized – which wouldn’t normally be a criticism, only that other parts of the EP feel so little like anything else. It’s clear a trip down Waskerly Way will spring a few surprises on you, but it’s the nastier ones that you’ll return for.
Kier Wiater Carnihan