Russ Gabriel: Novowooks EP

Russ Gabriel clearly knows his way around a mixer: he's been issuing techno tracks since 1993, and has established a more-than-solid reputation through releases on his own Liss, Hampshire-based Ferox (until 2000) and more recent Sestra labels, as well as on Carl Craig's Planet-E, Peacefrog Records, Force-Inc, Soma Recordings, Mobilee Records, and others. With ears wide open to techno pouring out of Detroit, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, Gabriel's done the global circuit as a DJ and has laid down roots in Detroit, London, and Germany. The three-track Novowooks EP finds him showcasing his ample talents on the SDF label's sophomore release.

The opener “Berg” sets the tone with a hammering percussive motif, followed by a bass-prodded kick drum combination that's soon joined by claps and metallic stabs. Patterns artfully ebb and flow as the taut groove loosens, getting funkier and heavier in the process. Gradually the house swing that's at the track's core asserts itself, at the same time as bright keyboard patterns and a metronomic bongo episode draw the listener's attention away from it. Largely hewing to the same sort of template, the title track works a chiming keyboard riff and near-subliminal bass rumble into an eight-minute exercise in lithe tech-house. Both cuts are firmly ‘in the tradition' and evidence the handprint of a seasoned pro. However, the EP's most ear-catching cut is the dynamic “Morphose,” which opts for a fresh, six-minute crash course in electrified house that digs deep into a sputtering synth bass line that's funky as hell. The tune's all about upward lift, with Gabriel's bass attack scaling the track's peak repeatedly, resulting in a constant parade of mini-climaxes. Slinky in the extreme, “Morphose” oozes a sleek future-funk sheen and trippy fire that makes it body music of the most potent kind.

May 2010