As time goes on, Leif Knowles continually refines the lush and psychedelic sound that’s very much his own. For an idea of where he’s at as a DJ, listen to his set from last year at Freerotation, where he’s a resident. For his best productions, it’s a toss-up between July V / Shoulders Back, the first 10-inch on his Tio Series, and its follow-up, Bluebird / Number 13.
Trippy as they are, both tracks are playful and somehow innocent—rather than a lurid afterhour, you might imagine, say, a festive gathering of adorable forest spirits (or maybe that’s just me). Despite its high tempo (138 BPM), “Bluebird” rides a lazy, seesawing groove, its twinkling melody framed by percussion that shimmers with delay. “Number 13” moves with a bubbling motion, its bassline gurgling up like a hot spring. As with “Bluebird,” the lead is a winding 16th-note melody, but this one clones itself in a repeating pattern of call-and-response, first in a higher octave, then with a more percussive sound in the lower mid-range. Both are defined by dazzling textures and nimble rhythms, a combination at the heart of most of Knowles’ music, but that here feels closer than ever to perfection.
Takaaki Itoh’s Disciplinary Synthetics EP has a nifty balance between new and old school sounds. There’s the deep and psychedelic side of tracks like “Wisher” and “Obliger,” modern-sounding techno tunes that would hypnotise a dance floor. Then there’s “Anagrammer,” a blistering weapon that couples the rawness of ’90s UK techno with precision percussion and a well-sculpted low-end. It’s no surprise that Itoh can blend eras and sounds so naturally: he’s been producing for over 20 years.
The EP’s highlight, “Wisher,” was picked up by plenty of DJs, and is among RA’s most-charted tracks of January. A fairly standard but effective tool, its kick drum sets a steady pace among a collage of synths that whir and bleep. The sound will be familiar to followers of Northern Electronics and Semantica Records, labels that favour depth over immediacy. While the syncopated “Obliger” hovers in a similar zone, the stomping “Anagrammer” is more forceful, channelling golden-era Birmingham techno with its elastic lead synth. Funky and ice-cold, it recalls the intensity of early Regis tracks like “Allies” and “Sand.” Thanks to a balance between old and new, Disciplinary Synthetics nails a timeless—albeit familiar—aesthetic.
- Tracklist /