Swoon: Beyond Human EP

Versa: Blues EP

Don't be misled by the title of Versa's four-track EP for Cut, a small independent label that issues a monthly release of atmospheric electronic music to subscribers via email, as it's most definitely not a blues collection, even if its ultra-polished dub-techno material manifests somewhat of a bluesy quality. More than that, it's characterized by the kind of expansive multi-dimensionality one associates with modern-day dub as well as an especially refined sensitivity to textural detail.

When a rasta-fied voice surfaces during the laconic opener “System Blues,” one could be forgiven for thinking of the output of Rhythm and Sound producers Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald (something like the 2001 Rhythm and Sound compilation) as a kindred reference point for Versa's own creations. Also on the pronouncedly slower tip is “Atlantic Blues,” where ocean sounds, appropriately enough, appear alongside echoing keyboard stabs and a snappy micro-groove. More energized by comparison are the ten-minute “Sunrise in Una,” which animates its watery chords with a bass-prodded groove whose shuffling swing is as funky as it is breezy, and “Yard Blues,” which kicks up some dust with its endlessly burbling dub-house pulse. Admittedly, Versa's sound is heavy on atmosphere and groove and light on melody, but that lack tends to recede into the background when the unnamed producer's material floods the listening space with such aromatic potency.

Entirely different in style is the Beyond Human EP, which presents three tracks by Swoon, a London-based producer who contributes percussion to Atlanta-based trio Algiers' live set-up when not crafting solo material. If Versa's sound calls to mind Rhythm and Sound, Swoon's might have you thinking of Four Tet, especially when the EP's second and third tracks appear.

Up first is “Do You Love,” which engages the listener from the outset with an ear-catching mix of percolating grooves, vocal refrains of the track title, and a trippy keyboard hook. A non-stop swirl of aural stimulation, the cut keeps one listening closely from start to finish and attending to every change in its five-minute flow. Neon-lit synth arpeggios and hazy, choral-like washes lend the too-short title track a sci-fi feel (apparently Swoon drew inspiration for the EP from Philip K Dick), after which “Fever Poem” dims the lights for an extended exercise in spacey moodscaping where synths burble and washes exhale beatifically. That aforementioned Four Tet connection most noticeably surfaces, by the way, in the bubbly funk-techno groove that emerges during the track's second half and specifically in the way the material effortlessly pulls together elements from multiple genres. If there's anything dissatisfying about the release, it simply has to do with length: at fourteen minutes, it flashes by so quickly it feels as if Swoon's just getting started.

August-September 2014