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.