Alix Perez: U
Exit Records

Much as he's done in other recent work, such as the 2009 debut album 1984 and 2013 follow-up Chroma Chords (both issued on Friction's Shogun Audio), the four-track U finds Alix Perez (Belgian-born and France-raised Alix Depauw) adventurously extending drum'n'bass into terrain so head-spinning it leaves the listener dazzled. Calling it ground-breaking might appear hyperbolic on paper, but even a single listen reveals that it's not much of an overstatement. Depauw, who's released material on imprints such as Metalheadz, V recordings, and Soul:R, long ago moved beyond the strict drum'n'bass template in search of a more innovative style receptive to other genres. The new EP certainly suggests he's found it, even if the four tracks seem at times to inhabit different universes, something attributable in part to the involvement of Stray (J. Fogel) and DJ Rashad (Rashad Harden) and DJ Spinn (Morris Harper) on separate pieces. In addition to those cuts, the EP includes Perez flying solo on two tracks.

Up first is “U,” a thunderous banger whose head-nodding funk swirl Perez sprinkles with an incredible barrage of voice micro-edits, machine gun snares, and jungle snippets. He then teams up with Stray for “Sludge,” as lethal as the opener though one rather more heavily synth-soaked. Pinning down the track's style is a challenge, for sure, as hints of deep house, bass music, and witch house emerge without Perez tipping the balance in one direction only. “Make It Worth” proves to be easier in that regard, with DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn giving the tune an undeniably strong footwork vibe. Regardless, the incredible merging of sliced'n'diced vocals with a throbbing footwork groove (a faint ‘amen' echo also buried in the background) makes for one of the EP's most striking moments. Perez caps the release with “Gully Halves,” a tripped-out banger that works a bit of hip-hop and deep house into the proceedings via the incorporation of male and female vocal samples. It all adds up to a stunning display that packs more ideas and imagination into twenty minutes than other producers do entire albums.

May 2014