Valance Drakes :: Struggle Experienced Internally (Detroit Underground)

Bold, pitched percussion loops lay down the basis for each of these tracks, slowly filling with more density, adding a sense of tension and development without rhythmically slipping enough to betray the listener’s deeply nodding head.

Valance Drakes :: Struggle Experienced Internally (Detroit Underground)

Prolific Londoner Valance Drakes delivers a strong EP of noisy hip-hop tempo experiments for the wide ranging Detroit Underground label. Paired with a number of remixes, this release is available on download and cassette, appealing to both home/car listeners as well as DJ’s who like to play low slung, leftfield material that maintains a high level of unpredictability without straying too far from the beat grid.

Bold, pitched percussion loops lay down the basis for each of these tracks, slowly filling with more density, adding a sense of tension and development without rhythmically slipping enough to betray the listener’s deeply nodding head. Most distinctive is his strength in sound design, evident by his confident beat dropouts, which foreground the grinding sound objects that he continuously tosses in and out of the mix. Often, this sonic material suggests the wild, crisp DSP-concrete of Old Bombs; more playful than menacing, but too odd to feel innocuous. Nimble and flashly, these sounds exists independently of their musical surroundings while never being overly distracting.

Pads and melodies are rarely employed, and in addition to more abstract sounds, his drums do most of the work. In “Submarine Memories” his snare is taken far back into the mix and coupled with brain clearing Raster Noton-like sine wave. That it still bumps speaks to the care of sound placement and a general sense of balance. Elsewhere his drums are stretched towards other parts of his arrangement; on “Struggle Experienced Internally” hits unburden by decay are swept into a spinning, tightly coiled density. Only on “Octopus” does he choose a flat kick and snare, making room for his most bombastic sound design and even a simple string melody. This ends up being his only misstep on the EP, with the arrangement overly busy and the hard panned vowel formants especially unpleasant sounding on headphones.

He can work with more placid sounds too. On “Breathless Body,” the tight delays and dripping samples recall Thomas Felhmann’s downbeat and watery outing for Plug Research, Lowflow. The final track, “Photographic Memory” basks in a Brainfeeder-like float while pleasingly tuned kicks and toms roll out beneath a repitched vocal, making for a inviting and technically impressive finish, finding warmth within the drill n bass grind, a perfect display of the balanced finesse found throughout the release.

The remixes of “A Submerged Face” are a predictably mixed bag. While Displ and Borealis fail to leave an impact, Annie Hall delivers an impressively unfunky drum loop backed by a modulating sheet of claustrophobic and gleefully evil noise. Even better is Consequence’s take, a pulsating, dense workout radiating with the bright energy of jungle with an active, jazzy ride pattern, alongside pads that only begin to outline emotions, before they quickly recede, overtaken by a cluster of tightly programmed drums. Ambiguous, unique and fascinating.

Ambling at around 115bpm, Steve Kuhl’s remix is the definite outlier of the group. Pushed along by a dry 4/4, squeezed 303s lines by way of Plastikman are coupled with a simple cycling synth figure. Dropping in syncopated kicks and a choral sample from the original, this slice of technoid balearica moves along in little hurry, perfect for a post-rave wind down sessions with just the slightest paranoiac aftertaste.

Struggle Experienced Internally is available on Detroit Underground.

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