The Soft, Killawatt, Thermal Bear – DER001 [DERELICHT]
Nascent label and all-round arts collective DERELICHT have hit the ground running with a pretty special first release. ‘DER001′ features a hand-picked selection from the label’s slowly expanding roster and opts for the less trodden path in terms of its style and curation. The EP captures Derelicht’s focussed and individual aesthetic, encompassing the label’s consideration for sound design and less conventional musical form. The dark, gritty finish on these tracks unites the sound of the artists, and despite each track’s own independent musical journey, the album as a whole is unified by this overall artistic vision. From Killawatt’s brooding break-beat number to Thermal Bear’s beautifully poignant capturing of the night, the emotional breadth of the EP is impressive while still remaining coherent.
Last year we had an in depth chat with Derelicht’s director Gavin Mee to learn more about the label, which you can read here: Interview – Gavin Mee.
Opening the EP is The Soft, a three-piece band that focus on A/V productions drawing upon krautrock, electronica and dance music influences in their music. They bring to this track the environment of their live band set-up – particularly apparent in the use of the acoustic drum kit and vocals. The minimal and progressive nature of ‘Icaria’ make it a sumptuously hypnotic cut of IBM-synth pop fused goodness – though inherently human and organic in its manifestation. Glistening production here can be recognised through the track’s seductive ambience and the internal energy that it seems to generate. Unlike the fate of a lot of other material that’s being churned out, ‘Icaria’ along with the other two tracks are full of real life, managing to evade the clinical and often soulless musical output of peers. Here the music has a certain sparkle to it, the mix feels alive.
The film above is the official video for ‘Icaria’, which was directed by the band’s third member, William Glass. As an audio-visual collective, Derelicht have commissioned films for all three tracks on the EP, each of them unique and imaginative.
You could maybe describe this track as a meditative post-rock trip, its stripped down arrangement and electronic embellishments supported by the great sense of build that works through the track’s duration. Key harmonic shifts such as the ones at the two minute mark and 02:37 heighten the suspense, pulling us through periods of tension and release to turn this into a voyage of pure elation. The insistent vocal line mutters indecipherably across trundling snare hits, straight hat figures and underlying synth sirens, entranced and self-absorbed. Despite its general ambience, this is dramatic music, and the radiant and evocative skylines of J.M.W. Turner really come to mind here.
The music is powerfully captivating despite its fairly simple structure. The track develops noticeably around 03:30, where the drum kit elaborates further, while the harmonic pedal continues to rise incrementally. Though initially quite noticeable, the bells meld into the texture wonderfully, giving it this flickering quality, while the track remains rooted in the triple beat percussion and vocal refrain. It feels as if this track could go on forever.
Matthew Watt, aka Killawatt, is an emerging British producer and DJ who is rapidly making waves through his incisive and compelling productions. A recent appearance on Boiler Room Berlin as well as gigs at venues such as Fabric under his belt promises much more to come from the aspiring twenty-three year old. ‘Aeolis Mons’ begins timidly; a choir of synths approach from the distant horizon over a soft static noise, immediately we are transported to misty skylines and a hazy reverie of distant places. A marching beat enters, but not the conventional kick one might expect. Things begin to contort and decay after the tranquil opening, as interjections of noise spill obtusely into the texture. We head into an unsuspecting turn of mood, into something much more foreboding. The track evolves into an acid-infused industrial breaks flex, and wouldn’t have trouble slotting into the Stroboscopic Artefacts or R&S catalogues. Its metallic clangs and intimidating synth figures pack this piece with a punch and here we see the more assertive side of Derelicht. The track subsides back into the serenity of the opening following the tempestuous middle section, and the ease with which Watt does this is impressive.
The sounds used here feel really organic, and this analogue warmth is a hallmark of Watt’s candescent style. Further testament to Killawatt’s sorcery in the production studio can be found in his debut album ‘émigré’, which dropped last month on Osiris Music. ‘Aeolis Mons’ is both original and engaging, and strikes a great balance between the more abrasive sound palette and softer electro-acoustic themes.
On the visuals here is Liam Roberts, who provides for us “an analogue infusion of glitched wilderness, chaos and chance”.
Closing the EP is Thermal Bear‘s ‘Carpe Noctem’, which goes for a slightly more conventional form. The welcome addition of a 4×4 cut doubles as stylistic balance on the EP as well as a little fix for those estranged from their dance-floor oriented norm.
The emergence of the weirdly wonderful synth melody suddenly amalgamate the beat and the bass-line into a beautifully loose cohesion. The track has ample space between the beats, yet manages to keep its rigidity through the off-beat clap and the later introduced hats. Thermal Bear has found something special in the brilliantly lyrical treatment of the melody, which gives this track its sparkle. The melody manages to be simultaneously melancholic and optimistic, and this combination adds to the dreamful nature of this track. Perfect for closing at 9am, there’s a sense of relief that seeps from the simple but effective drums and self-sufficient melodic interplay. But perhaps it’s a relief that is achieved through a numbing of the world, an evasion, as opposed to a grounded resolution…
Directing the video for ‘Carpe Noctem’ is Oliver Jennings, who has created six minutes of spaced out psychedelia through a number of 3D geometric processes.
The EP is more sophisticated than it seems at first listening, and repeated visitations will continue to offer up rich experiences. Derelicht’s first release effectively communicates the label’s diversity and broad artistic aesthetic. It’s difficult to pick a favourite, as each track offers a different experience; it’s rare to have an EP that is so consistent in quality. Despite the breadth and possible disparity of style, the EP remains cohesive. The whole EP has this dreamy sheen to it, inviting the listener to really let go and drift away, albeit for an engaging nineteen minutes.
Despite being a life-long process, it seems that Derelicht have found a voice with their first release. Their willingness to do something different, and reach out in a different way has, and will continue to pay its dividends. Indeed, the confidence to resist a straight up dance-floor oriented release is a statement of intent from the label, and is indicative of Mee and co.’s greater vision. Watch out for DER002…
If you missed it, here’s our interview with Derelicht’s director, Gavin Mee.
[ Links – Derelicht – Soundcloud – Vinyl ]