The Third Man: Before We Begin EP
Ai Records

The Third Man's Before We Begin EP is another prototypically beautiful twelve-inch from the ever-reliable Ai imprint. In fact, the material's so polished, it's hard to believe the six tracks constitute the maiden voyage of London-born Toby Leeming. That the EP sounds occasionally derivative of classic Basic Channel-Chain Reaction is a whole lot less objectionable when he proves himself such an artful practitioner of the dub-techno style. But Leeming casts his gaze in a Westerly direction too, in particular towards the rich splendour of Detroit techno (Leeming namechecks Underground Resistance, Andy Stott, Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Surgeon, Richie Hawtin, Drexciya, A Guy Called Gerald, Plaid, and Monolake, among others as influences).

The epically swinging “Onwards & Upwards” introduces the EP at a peak level with a gorgeous panorama of charging kick drums, watery chords, pulsating bass lines, and jazzy keyboard riffing. In general, the tracks stylistically alternate between the Motor City and Berlin thereafter. Drenched in gleaming synthesizer patterns, the Detroit-styled cuts “Fast Train to Edinburgh” and “Sedition” surge with light-speed locomotion, while hints of Chain Reaction artists such as Fluxion, Scion, and Various Artists emerge elsewhere: in “A14 (Eastbound),” moody starbust flares and hi-hat accents skip across the stereo field as synth waves unfurl and bulbous bass drums pound, while aqueous chords and steaming grooves power the deep dub-techno tracks “6 A.M. on Leith Walk” and “A14 (Westbound).” That influences are audible doesn't discount the fact that the material on Before We Begin EP is silky smooth, the grooves tight, and the tracks heavenly.

March 2008