One of the more prominent paradoxes of hip electronic music magazines and self-appointed tastemaker blogs is their insatiable appetite for a progressive (or ‘hot’) sound and their unhesitant consistency to criticise it whenever a producer they hadn’t previously hailed as their pioneer of said sound utilises it in any way. This has been particularly noticeable in recent times whenever a producer draws inspiration from – or implicitly samples – the just-out-side-of-recent-memory era of RnB female vocalists; namely Brandy, Aaliyah, Ciara et al. Execution, technique and song-writing goes out the window and too many gems are dismissed as bedroom productions riding on the coattails of Untrue or James Blake’s Harmonimixes. Criticising mass-saturation is one thing, and totally gravy in most books, but the lack of self-awareness and favouritism seems really silly; especially when that’s translated over to producers who were once making gorgeously wonky RnB heaters and have since moved on to whatever they think will keep blogs happy for another 12 months.
So when Jacques Greene, the Montreal producer with deserved acclaim for sourcing vocal samples heavily from that dangerously hyped territory and turning them into something moving and powerful via the medium of synth-heavy 2-step, announces that he’s starting a label, and that the first EP is himself doing what he is unquestionably very, very good at, then it is a moment for celebration. Here is a beat-maker who has established a personality in his music, and to see him progress that sound, as he has on Concealer rather than jump onto something new is both refreshing and rewarding. On lead track ‘Flatline’ we see those vocal samples replaced by fellow LuckyMe family member Ango, who has that simultaneously fresh and vintage feel to his voice that’s shared among few other contemporary RnB singers that are worth their salt. It’s a slow and ardent synth-workout for Greene, favouring space and aural aroma over cluttered 2-step, giving Ango an appropriate room to further pierce the moonlit soundscape with glow and sparkle. ‘These Days’ builds on that spacious echo and fills it with rolling 808 toms and a gliding wordless vocal, which could have many confusing this for collaboration with Koreless if there wasn’t a tracklist.
On ‘Clark’, Greene makes his most unashamed excursion into straight house yet, complete with abrasive hi-hats, claps and bouncy bass stabs. But rather than dismissing his personal sound completely, he has communicated that soul, wonkyness and colour that has warranted all the praise he received last year into a versatile and extremely danceable context. The collaborative track with Koreless that follows is a little more than you might expect too. Running over 9 minutes, there is enough time for ‘Arrow’ to let that Floaty P-esque percussion (think ‘Sais’) blend with the moving synths cut-off trickery and those gorgeous keyboard plinky plonks that make both Jacques Greene and Koreless such remarkable and endearing producers.
Words: Joe Moynihan // Out: 30th January 2012