Sei A: Editing Shadows

Sei A is the nom de plume under which Glasgow-based producer Andy Graham issues his debut collection Editing Shadows for the French electronic imprint Missive. Based on the available evidence, Graham's impeccably-crafted and soulful house music distances itself from the competition with ample helpings of passion and invention. Without question, Editing Shadows opens powerfully, with one burning cut following another. “Smile For Me” royally kicks the album into gear with a steamy slice of slinky deep house featuring a soulful vocal sample that sounds uncannily similar to the voice heard on “Archangel” from Burial's Untrue. The quality level remains intact during “Soul Alarm,” where Graham drapes his own suave vocalizing across a sleek electro-house pulse, the swinging funk-house of “My World,” and “Blink,” which rivals “Smile For Me” for the album's best track by layering a sweeping melodic hook and electrified buildups over a surging house pulse. Changing things up, melancholy and drama are the order of the day in the ballad “Ether,” a showcase for both Sara Pickin's yearning vocal and Graham's elegant arrangement of beat programming and synthetic strings.

The album's second half satisfies slightly less simply because each of the remaining tracks stretches past the six-minute mark unlike the opening half-dozen, each of which is five minutes or less. Furthermore, the water-treading jam “This Is” definitely seems a weaker track when heard after the opening six while “Say or Do” likewise spins its experimental wheels noisily but to little lasting effect. The hot-wired “It's Like” fares better in its energized fusion of aggressive electro and mechano techno (Graham even works some trombone flurries into the jacking mix), as does “Hacking the Network” with its charging house swing and quasi-dystopic vibe. The fourteen-minute closer “State of Us” isn't an epic but rather includes a hidden track that's so infectious its bubbly house pulse could give Booka Shade a run for its money. Though Editing Shadows picks up in its closing laps, shorter track times, more hooks, and another vocal (or two) would've lifted the second half to the level of the first. Even so, any collection that boasts material such as “Smile For Me,” “Soul Alarm,” and “Blink” earns its recommendation on the strength of those sterling cuts alone.

January 2009