As I mentioned in our previous encounter with Bristol-bred, London-based “bass boggled” Callum Laksa, one would be hard-pressed to point to any one of his five releases to date as being emblematic of his style as a producer. Much like Ploy, Bruce, Lurka, and his other scene mates, it’s not a matter of trying to reinvent himself at every turn. Rather, fueled by the explosive creativity fostered by early dubstep and the enduringly energizing spirit of the drop, Laksa’s sonic world has been marked by certain personal stylistic hallmarks and his omnivorous approach to genre.
In conversation with the producer or seeing him DJ, he comes of at once quietly unassuming and deeply contemplative, weighing the role that the changing material concerns of vinyl culture against digital DJ'ing and contemplating the free associations young producers can now make by virtue of being social online, all the while humbly downplaying his own artistic voice. "Personally, I’m not really trying to chase or develop an aesthetic. One thing I do always try and achieve is a good balance between home listening and club functionality," he noted via email last fall. And while constant stylistic makeovers were once seen as a hallmark of authenticity, something done by major label vampires like Madonna and Drake, Laksa seems to take an almost fatalistic view as to the current state of musical nomadism. "I think with an increased accessibility to different kinds of music through YouTube, downloading, social media etc, alongside an increased accessibility to djing (CDJ's/USB'ss), it’s not surprising that there’s a breakdown in music tribalism. As a producer, if you can make a track in a different style/tempo and have the access to other music in that field, why would you just stick to one sound/scene? Maybe this wasn’t an option or as enticing/interesting for producers/DJs in more localised scenes, with a vinyl culture. I think the openness to fluidity/diversity in genres is a big positive for me and, personally, in DJ'ing I see an exciting future for experimentation/new experiences in music," he remarked.
And it's that very sense of excitement at the prospect of music styles becoming much more fluid and heterogeneous that emanates across Contrasts ' three tracks as its producer moves from the big room moves of the A side to the sub-120 BPM territory in which we find the flip's two morose yet dynamic cuts. "Lose Code" plots a course to the icy interzone between sluggish house and techno while "Buried" recalls a slurred and sloppy Shackleton, its post-dubstep Muslimgauze maneuvers pummeling the listener with delightfully mixed messages.
For whatever reason, I’ve always thought of Ploy’s Iron Lungs EP as of a piece with Laksa’s Contrasts EP, both three-trackers featuring a belter of a titular A side paired with two more sublime and exploratory vibes cuts on the B. And similar to “Lungs,” “Contrasts” has an almost epic quality to it on first listen as both ride out kick-heavy grooves towards something resembling a narrative resolution while opening up the last third to heavy atmospherics that allow both tracks to slip into peak-time sets ever so slyly before erupting into a chaotic unknown.
As much as some pundits might look to the current generation of bass-minded producers and see a general lack of that oh-so-UK quality of "rudeness," "Contrasts" seems to rebuff this argument from the get-go, harnessing the traditional 4X4 techno thump and injecting it with an elasticity that makes each kick sound as if it's burst forth from the speaker, rave siren in hand. However, in a manner similar to Bruce's ripping "I'm Alright Mate," the 'UK-ness' of "Contrasts" isn't simply reflected in its buoyant, pliable low-end or the fact that its first minute sounds like one is approaching a suburban rave via the M6, the manic acid house snare pattern gaining volume in the atmosphere like an impending meteorological nimbus over the TAZ. By the time we pull up in our SAAB hatchback, the high hats are in full swing mode as they shuffle their way across the undulating field, trembling from the pressure pushed out by the unrelenting subwoofers all the way up front by the stage area. Against our better instincts, the listener soon finds themselves swept away into the current of the crowd, the E taking hold for beautitude is near. A choir of gaping pads descends upon the pulsating throng and lets loose a downpour of heavenly indignation, the dancers left unsure whether the floating bodies of their compatriots are being swept up in a rapture or the drugs have simply gotten to be too much to handle. Thankfully Laksa soon parts the skies and we're finally back upon the muddy land, caught up in the tidal flow of nature and humanity smushed so as to become one, the tyranny of the Anthropocene put to rest at long last.