Seminal label Hessle Audio have been at the forefront of the UK’s burgeoning electronic music scene for the past few years; firmly cementing itself as a purveyor of the abstract musical hybrids that it champions. It’s the Wonka factory of record labels, churning out dance floor gems faster than Augustus Gloop could skip down the pathway to childhood obesity. And with an impressive catalogue that serves as a retrospective guide to the changing sound of bass music post dubstep era, it comes as a surprise that, barring compilations, Hessle is only about to release it’s most substantial work to date in the form of label co-owner Kevin McAuley’s double EP ’Release’ under his Pangaea moniker.
‘I wouldn’t call it an album, even though at one point I considered turning it into one’ said McAuley in a recent interview. Certainly, this would have been a natural progression. Up until now his output has consisted of short sharp bursts of high quality bass infusions, notably his Hex/Fatalist and Inna Dazze/Won’t Hurt EPs released earlier this year showcased the skill of a young producer intent on leaving his peers in the shadows when it comes to keeping things interesting.
So, the time has come to give a little more and fans of McAuley’s brawnier work won’t be disappointed. Opener ‘Game’ uses a sample from Missy Elliot’s ‘Work it’, the words ‘do your thing, just make sure you ahead of the game’ recite themselves over a bed of fidgety percussion and decaying drum pads. It’s a strong statement of intent for the track, but the lengthy, drawn out builds on this and following track ‘Release’ are tedious. You feel as if you’re waiting for something to happen rather than anticipating it.
But it’s on the fast moving ‘Trouble’ that we’re reminded of McAuley’s talent, with it’s perfectly placed vocal sample that skims off the tail end of syncopated kicks and snares that creates a swing as infectious as it is raw. It commands movement, as does the brilliant ‘Time Bomb’, which shifts between elements of grime and tribal, creating a sense of menace throughout.
This is exactly the kind of elaborate production you would expect from McAuley and characteristic of much of his past work. He’s great at amalgamating the darker elements of electronic music, and using past influences to create new sounds. Take the mighty ‘Aware’ and ‘Majestic 12’, which effortlessly combine elements of old and new, the former, sounds like an old El-B cut whilst the rolling bass of ‘Majestic’ adds some much needed colour to the record.
There’s an attempt to explore new territory on closing track ‘High’. At seven and a half minutes long, it’s the kind of thing that would have been more suited to a full-length album, but here it just sounds out of place, the attic on top of the party if you will.
Although McAuley has admitted that this project wasn’t an attempt to do anything different musically, you would expect to hear the kind of forward-thinking mentality occur on this record that Hessle so rigidly applies to it’s ethos. In hindsight, an LP full of similar work at this stage would have probably felt a little stagnant, but it’s easy for expectations to become impossibly high for producers like Pangaea; sometimes they create the equivalent of audio opium and each hit is expected to be as strong as the last. But they’re not here to save dance music, just stop it from drowning in a pool of it’s own self-worth, and ‘Release’ does a fitting job all round.
Pangaea ‘Release’ will be released on 2×12″, CD and digital formats on 29th October via Hessle Audio