Alex Agore: I Remember Many Things EP
Kaison: Eth Olam EP
Zenwan: Ayahuasca Icaro EP
There's a great deal to like about the debut EP from Zenwan, a so-called “sometime resident of south China.” Ayahuasca Icaro, Guangzhou Underground's fifth release, presents twenty-eight wide-ranging minutes of neo-psychedelic bass music, with six of them given over to a remix by Decka Sound from Bristol's 4 Seasons crew. Zenwan's four originals offer imaginative, free-wheeling takes on experimental bass music, and the producer, using underground house and techno as springboards, crafts his own idiosyncratic spin on the genres. Up first is “Prophetic Vision,” which, stoked by a throbbing pulse, thunders in true clubwise fashion while also dazzling the listener with an ever-shifting panorama of samples, sound treatments, and melodic fragments. Zenwan jumpstarts the body-mover “Ego Death” with a house-styled rhythm design woven from kick drums, metallic percussion accents, and vocal edits, and the listener is once again dizzied by a non-stop battery of stimulation.
The typical Ayahuasca Icaro cut offers a heady intersection of physicality and intellect, the former in the music's primal rhythms and the latter in the artful way the producer assembles disparate sounds into arresting wholes. Though it's rare for an overt influence to surface on the EP, the funk moves Kraftwerk threaded into its Electric Cafe album surface in updated form on the title track and a DNA trace of Shackleton is audible in Zenwan's jungle-inflected workout “Wound Where the Light Entered.” On a recording where words such as straightforward and conventional rarely apply, Decka Sound drags “Wound Where the Light Entered” down to the dark, sweat-drenched basement of a Berlin club for an unfussy, EP-capping techno treatment.
Also newly available from Guangzhou Underground is the debut EP by up-and-comer Kaison. The Leeds, UK-based Kai (who operates under the grime alias Merouac, too) covers a lot of ground on the twenty-seven-minute outing, with five tracks offering wide-ranging takes on his fresh blend of sparkling electronica, house, and bass music (the twenty-eight-year-old producer himself has characterized Kaison's sound as “slower house/jazz/trip-hop weirdness).
It's easy to be won over by the opener “Chokmah” when its multi-coloured sweep is so packed with effervescence and joy, but “Tharsis,” a resplendent, energy-charged display of IDM-styled melodies and rhythms, dazzles even more. The project's jazzier side blossoms during “Eth Olam” when a trumpet's granted ample solo room to maneuver, while “Asana” showcases Kai's ambient persona with five minutes of shimmering radiance. Heavy on melody, rich in emotion, and panoramic in scope, Kaison's tracks are about as far removed from minimal techno as could be imagined and are all the more appealing for being so.
And finally we have the second EP on Guangzhou Underground from Berlin producer Alex Agore (his first, Do It, inaugurated the label). Little effort is required to get behind I Remember Many Things when its three deep house cuts go down so easily. Oscillating between two chords, the wistful title track spreads a repeating voice sample across a lithe house pulse, the speaker's “I Remember Many Things” drawl an imaginative counterpoint to the tune's swinging bass line. With the speaker nostalgically musing about a “smoke-filled room with lights all red and green and blue aglow against the gloom,” the track might be modest with respect to the number of elements deployed but is effective nonetheless.Congas and triangle accents add an organic and earthy quality to the Rhodes- and synths-sprinkled groove snaking through “I Need U,” with Agore again using choice voice samples and a warm low end to spark a slow deep house burn. “Love Conclusion” works its magic even more patiently, with this time Agore eschewing vocal samples for a sultry six-minute strut down memory lane. There's a dusty and soulful vibe to I Remember Many Things that enhances its appeal, but it's the polish of Agore's production design that's the strongest selling point for the twenty-minute outing.