Basic Soul Unit: Motional Response
Still Music

Stuart Li (aka Basic Soul Unit) might be Toronto-based but his Motional Response full-length shows that Detroit and Chicago blood flows through the producer's veins. A beautifully crafted set of ten analog-oriented techno and deep house tracks (all of it previously unreleased), the material honours the legacies of the genres' forebears while also making a powerful case for Basic Soul Unit as a force to be reckoned with on its own terms. Adding to the recording's appeal is that, though Li builds his material up using 303s, 909s, and 808s, he gives equal attention to the music's rhythmic and melodic dimensions. As a result, a representative tune impresses on rhythmic grounds for its detailed percussive patterning but also for the resplendent atmospheres that complement the track's driving pulse. Motional Response is an event for another reason, too: though he's been issuing material for years on labels such as Versatile, Ostgut Ton, Mathematics, and Mule, the recording is Li's debut full-length release. He's found a good home for it, too, in Still Music, with the Chicago imprint also heavily committed to releasing music with ties to Detroit and Chicago.

Li isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, as the acidy “Intersection” and gritty “All Over Me” make clear, and the album's smartly paced, too, with the opener “Across the Room” clearly laying out Basic Soul Unit's sleek, synth-heavy sound and the second cut, “Breathe,” showcasing an intensely soulful side, especially when the tune's seductive instrumental presentation is joined by a female singer's impassioned vocal. What Motional Response definitely isn't is minimal. House and techno fans'll find no shortage of booming kick drums, swinging hi-hats, and shotgun claps on the album, and a funkier side of Li's sound can also be heard in the material's hard-grooving attack. The tracks also are complex but not at the expense of musicality, and Li's creative skills are revealed as much in how he arranges a given track's multiple layers as anything else.

The release proper is sixty-nine minutes long but extends to eighty-seven with the bonus twelve-inch factored in, which features a roaring long-form version of the stormer “Clouds” and a remix by label owner Jerome Derradji of “Breathe” that also includes a strings contribution from Underground Resistance member Gerald Mitchell. It's understating it to say that Motional Response is a collection of which both Li and Still Music can be proud. Quality and polish are just two of the words that come to mind in reference to this consistently excellent recording.

December 2012