Note: Squarespace is not allowing me to embed videos or players at the moment so to hear the EP, head here until I hopefully fix this (or it gets fixed).
What does a record need to be reviewed by a major dance publication? Well, for anyone who receives emails from PR companies, that seems to the big one. Last fall, I started writing a piece on the same putrid state of music reviews—if you think a barely 2-graf write-up in RA or one of P4K’s wiki-sourced pieces that typically focus more on the context in which the record was made (re: the diet version of auteur theory-derived emphasis on a ‘hook-y personal backstory) with a couple graf saved to discuss the content of an entire album. Of course, I am guilty of extended intros as well but I try to balance that with a thoughtful analysis of the actual music.
This is a topic I think regularly about as for all the new music I listen to, depressingly little makes it to the ‘big leagues.’ What’s even more frustrating is seeing once-hyped new artists getting the cold shoulder, which seems to happen especially once they start to actually grow as artists and hone their artistic voice. I don't think I've ever complimented a producer on their earlier work and not have them reply along the lines of "Oh, that's such shit."
Yesterday I reviewed the new LNS EP—a more demanding but ultimately the most rewarding effort of hers to date. Like her, the Brooklyn-based J. Albert also released an early record on the 1080p label—an imprint that arguably set many of the elements in place for the lo-if house phenomenon that has made other 1080 vets like Project Pablo and Mall Grab into festival acts while the black artists who were making infinitely better lo-fi productions a solid decade before either artist make a fraction of what they do. Hell, just a week or so ago I learned from a friend involved in the Jersey Club scene about how Nadus, one of the scene's biggest stars who is definitely not getting that Cashmere Cat money, recently created an alias who identified as a young Danish woman and found her getting the type of near-instant attention that's impossible for an artist like himself lacking the PR resources and so much more.
Recently, a clerk/DJ at 2Bridges asked if I had heard the new J. Albert record on The Trilogy Tapes (a label whose batting a solid. 700 right now). As much as I bitch about the surfeit of mediocre af DJ's and producers clogging the bookings in NYC--and getting those gigs typically on who they know, not if they're any good--after ten seconds of listening to the Envy Turned Curiosity EP I had gone from saying, "Oh, I don't care for his music" to "Oh, I'm getting this RIGHT NOW."
This led to a conversation about the dance music producers in this city we actually do like as my interlocutor kept arguing that J. Albert was the most exciting entity currently at work. Having just had my mind blown by Huerco S.'s Loidis twelve, he's emerged as my fave amongst the younger producers in the city as does Brian Piñyero who has churned out absolutel corkers under the guises of Deejay Xanax, DJ Wey, and DJ Python (if this was RA, I'd mention how they all live in the same building in Ridgewood but seriously, WHO THE FUCK CARES? At least as long as the music is good) The Deejay Xanax twelve was one of the more interesting releases I've heard in some time as it's a record that has and does work well on the floor when deployed right, but also takes a beat scientist approach that is truly refreshing in how unhurried it is where Python released one of my favorite albums and Wey put out a varied and high-quality three-tracker for Bank.
Released by Alber't's Exotic Dance Records, the imprint has played home to records by himself under his own name and aliases like the bomb DJ Osom whose Untitled twelve passed me by last year (helllllllo Discogs) and sees the artist. Despite releasing for several years, Albert's music never really grabbed me as I found it wayyyyy too easy to group in with the like of Project Pablo and Mall Grab, artists who are creating functional, uninspired house music that its fans today will be embarrassed to admit liking in five years. While I now know the Osom twelve was amongst last year's vest, I've since listened to his deep house-inspired All The Things EP on British label Hypercolour and the UK-referencing ORPHEUS005 on Black Orpheus.
Envy Turned Curiosity is the refined and unified byproduct of the different influences found across those records: deep house grooves, 2-step/UKG hybrids, weirdo electro, tastefully rude bass pressure, atmospheric melodies and tones, and an oblique sensibility. From the second the singular groove underpinning "Money Between Friends" hits, a sense of sublimated future shock comes emanating from the speakers. Familiar though it sounds, its hybridizing of an electro beat augmented by a savvy slice of breaks, bass sweeps not unlike a lion yawning, and string-laden deep house drones, making for a track unlike anything I've heard before. For a solid eight minutes, Albert deftly moves around his primary element while adding minimalist garnishes of rhythms and melody. In an era where most producers remain happy to emulate, "Money Between Friends" serves as a mission statement about what can be achieved when one stops copying and starts synthesizing inspiration with personal intention.
Despite its name, "Deepstate Riddim" pulls not from dancehall but rather from a mutation of it: 2-step. That variant of British dance music was originally designed as a poppy, brighter type of music in response to the growing aggro nature of D&B, but it's only been since dubstep that artists have used the form to more experimental means. Utilizing a deceptively steady beat, the drums skip about beneath the barely-tonal hook that sounds a mentasm stab played on broken bells. The electro-breakbeats are back on B1 track "Envy Turned Curiosity." The opening two minutes are comprised of just the explosive beat assemblage and mangled sounds that gradually coalesce into the track's melodic bed upon which a feeling mallet line appears all too briefly before the organized chaos takes over. Ending the EP is the deceptively straight-forward house thump of "Designer Life" whose 4x4 beat soon shifts up to mimic the polyrhythmic percussion and post-IDM soundscape. This starts a nearly seven-minute back-and-forth as the beat switches between straightforward and expressionistic, mimicking the sounds and melodies cascading down this slippery composition.
With this release, J. Albert presents an evolution of his sound, or perhaps it's just another fantastic genre exercise. 'House' would be the overarching umbrella under which it rests. But the way it subtly uses different mutations of the genre without relying on obvious tropes--and when he does, he makes them his own--is yet another example of both the post-genre period in which we exist and the genre science that I often mention. By the latter, I take Simon Reynold's idea of 'breakbeat science' in which beats were cut up and re-arranged at a nearly atomic level, we're seeing more artists than ever apply a similar thinking to their productions, splicing different formalist qualities and making them downright experimental while also making functional music in the process. The producer's flight from the lo-fi contingent in which he first found himself group is indicative of his deep familiarity and experience with dance music, which is what I hear in his meticulously-constructed yet effortless-sounding tracks. Sometimes it just takes a little patience to experience an artist blow your mind.