Seba: Mesmerism EP
Secret Operations

One dictionary definition of Mesmerism characterizes it as “a hypnotic state induced by the operator's imposition of his will on that of the patient”—a pretty strong indication of what effect Sebastian Ahrenberg is striving for in this early 2014 release. Issued on his own Secret Operations imprint, the twenty-seven-minute EP inaugurates the next chapter in a recording career that last year witnessed the release of the Swedish producer's full-length debut Identity. More than anything, the four new tracks show Ahrenberg stretching beyond a drum'n'bass foundation and crossing boundaries into other stylistic zones—a little thing we call artistic growth.

The opening title track nods in the directions of dub-techno and funk before surreptitiously working a serpentine drum'n'bass pulse into its dynamic groove. Synths pepper a thick atmosphere gradually filling up with storm-related precipitation and subtly seething with a dystopic vibe in this remarkable exercise in sound design. If the opener flirts with dub-techno, the second, “Physickl,” pulls acid into its dark neurofunk realm, much as one might expect it would, given the Plastikman-styled title. Those familiar tightly coiled synth figures appear repeatedly alongside writhing bass smears and a hushed “Wanna get physical” vocal hook, after which “Life Is” dims the lights ever so slightly for a snappy throwdown, its double-time pulse bringing a controlled mania to an otherwise deeply aromatic, even prog-tinged presentation. At EP's end, “Science Fiction,” with its (early) Photek-styled drum clatter and lethal synth showers, riffs on classic drum'n'bass moves while making them sound fresh all over again. In the final analysis, the release impresses on content grounds but even more in the way Ahrenberg has found a way to advance his Seba sound without sacrificing its essence.

February 2014