Late last year, I was struck by a pink label with a logo of a hand holding my favorite of percussive instruments: the claves. And I got a rather solid chuckle at the label's name, Clave House, though its gimmicky nature kept me from giving it a listen. A couple of visits later, noting the label was based out of Detroit where the profusion of new imprints seems to grow at a far less exponential rate than in Brooklyn, I found myself doing a quick needle-drop preview of Japanese producer 外神田deepspace's Shinjuku Nights EP and buying it a few a minutes later. One of the more organic and rich dub techno-inspired house records I've heard in a minute, it turned Clave House from a giggle-inducing curio to a label I was now keeping my eye on.
Seemingly run by the Detroit-based producers Appian and Segv, who have also run the house-focused labels Corn Dogs and Sly Fox, both of which I was admittedly unfamiliar with prior to sitting down to write this. And while I have yet to give the catalogs of either label a solid listen yet, the Clave House aesthetic seems to focus on high 110s/low 120sBPM house music that is sensual sultry while possessing enough of a melancholic and sonic punch to hold my attention. Still, listening to the Bandcamp streams of their third release that came out in January by the Brooklyn-based producer Pascäal (née Peter Wiley), I was more than a bit disappointed as played through my shitty laptop speakers, it sounded like the type of unfocused, sprawling hardware jams that are in far too much abundance these days. Still, a couple months later when I found a copy of No Pain for $11--which is not too typical for even domestic twelve-inch releases these days--the strength of the label's preceding release gave me the confidence to buy it on sight.
At first, putting the four-track EP on my tables, it would seem to end before I had really taken notice of it, though the lurching dub techno of B1 cut "7" jumped out at me as an early possible contender for use in my own sets, especially when played at 45 and pitched down 8. But it hasn't been until the past couple weeks that I've found myself pulling for it to play while writing or cooking in a way that few twelves have as of late with Buttechno's platter for The Trilogy Tapes being another recent home listening favorite. However, unlike that release that features only one track that can be reasonably squeezed into a dance mix, I've also found myself using three-quarters of No Pain 's content with increased regularity as the music itself contains a type of raw emotionality that is so often lacking from so many "hardware jam"-sourced releases. Hell, whether the four tracks were recorded in the ad hoc fashion advertised on the record sleeve or produced over an endless series of takes is ultimately irrelevant as No Pain contains the type of cosmically affecting house music that has made it one of my favorite twelves, this first quarter of 2018 now in the rear mirror.
Opener "A10ris" kicks the EP with the sort of silken thrust that suggests one hell of a mastering job as each element, from the vintage square wave bassline--or at least I think it's a square wave--to the intricately assembled tom-heavy beat sounds deliciously warm and tactile, almost perceptible at times. Wiley's compositional approach veers towards the overly dense side of things that are often a hallmark of such releases, yet in each track he siezes upon a potent idea and gives it the sun, water, and space it needs to thrive as the princple melodic motif of "A10ris" is gradually elevated by an organ-like swell that almost reaches trance-like euphoria before smartly pulling back and allowing the melodic interweaving to continue unabated until the track's sudden end. Wiley's tracks are too composed to be considered tracks, yet they have a track-y quality to them in that the melodic density of each often tends to flatten itself out into a planar structure that blends ever so subtly into the next track in a mix.
"Orbs (Glass Mix") seems to take a more functional track at first as it gallops forth on the producer's percussive prowess, the cyclical rhythm gradually giving way to a glimmering harmonic bed. A shooting star in the form of a yawning, arching topline lazily lifts the bottom-heavy track towards the cosmos yet an arsenal of staggered dub chord stabs keeps things affixed to the dancefloor as the radiant highend floats off into the ether as an elegiac melody opens up to swallow the track whole.
Whether played at 33 or a low 45, the nearly nine-minute long turn-up of B1 "7" is the definite highlight of the EP for me, as sublimely emotive as the A side might be. Structured around a rolling post-acid clave-and-tom rhythm track and what sounds like a sampled vocal reconfigured into a rhythmic hook, the track showcases Wiley's ability for piling on the ideas without ever losing the plot, something with which many of his contemporaries struggle. Errant snare hits and melodic strands appear and disappear without making a fuss in the track's first third before a sustained pad swell builds over a solid minute before peaking, the beat faltering for a few bars before returning twice as strong. The morse code-like patterning of the vocal sample pushes its way to the front of the mix to reveal itself as a cut-up monosyllabic utterance, a phrase threatening to break through, yet the producer continues to avoid the obvious moods in favor of focusing on the hazy groove before giving up the ghost to reveal a reverbed voice repeating what sounds like "giving it up." Considering how utterly cliche such a vocal sample would be just in the context of this history of NYC dance music, Wiley's ability to make it the most memorable part of the track while retaining an opacity that eludes expectations make "7" a sublime spectral slow-burner.
The sole misstep of No Pain doesn't occur until the final track, the sketch-like "Ca_Ve" that takes swampy chords and a shaker-led beat and doesn't do much of anything with the track, its inclusion taking a bit of the wind out of EP's sails. Still, for a relatively young producer to create such tightly-packed mixes in which each element is allowed to shine through the fog of feelings is no small feat. No Pain might not hit you on the first or even fifth listen, but whether discovered adroitly dropped within a mix or just heard when one is in the right headspace, it contains a world of rich sonic details and rhythmic concepts that work in concert to create the type of dance music that is as much of a joy to dance to as it is to simply sit down and give it a considered listen. Though both are still early in their existences, I'm more than eager to hear what both the producer and label are patiently cooking up next.