Thavius Beck: Amber Embers Volume 1
Two fresh EPs from Mush Records show that the now-LA-based label hasn't lost any spring in its step. On his aptly titled seven-inch Mini-Mini-Me, Deru (Benjamin Wynn) collaborates with two Bay Area rappers in a manner reminiscent of Dabrye's MCs-based Two/Three. Deru's two-tracker would appear to be a bit of a one-off, given that it's the only release of its kind in his catalogue to date; still, there's much to enjoy about it, one way or the other. “Spliff”—three guesses as to what it's about—overlays Deru's downtempo head-nod with the biting flow of Casual (Hieroglyphics), who at times resembles a more animated Doom, while Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) scatters rough'n'ready verses over Deru's equally rough bleep-funk in “Bad, Bad Man.” If I had my wish, the release would've included vocal-less versions of the two tracks, too, just so that one'd be able to gain a better appreciation of Deru's work on its own: the cowbell-battered bump of “Spliff” would definitely hold up perfectly well sans vocals, as would the heady splatter-funk of “Bad, Bad Man.” Nevertheless, the recording's an eight-minute appetizer that leaves the listener wanting more, not less.
Despite being only fourteen minutes long, Thavius Beck's Amber Embers Volume 1 covers a generous amount of ground, largely because each of its four tracks are dramatically different in kind. Powered by claps and an irresistibly swinging tech-house groove, “In Excess” gets its luscious charge from severely mangled vocal treatments and a dynamic percussive attack that gives the tune a seemingly unstoppable thrust. Like some madcap blend of epic prog, tribal, and deep house, “En Route” builds a James Brown vocal loop and dizzying synth arpeggios into a Philip Glass-on-acid throwdown that's even more bulldozing than “In Excess.” “Prague to Dresden Train Delay” oozes menace in its epic marriage of swollen synths and aggressive beatsmithing, after which “Thavihaus” ends the EP with a track that's less lethal than its predecessors yet still snappy, especially with Beck focusing on chiming melodies heavy on syncopation and served up with a minimal funk pulse. Based on this release alone, it's difficult to get a clear read on the electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist's music, but the ride's certainly scenic and engaging. It's also worth noting that Beck's already got volumes two and three ready for release, and they're scheduled to see the light of day in the next couple of months.