Hyponik

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Sepalcure – ‘Make You’ EP (Hotflush)

After a break of almost a year, Sepalcure, the duo comprising of Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) and Praveen Sharma (Braille), return with a new EP of original material, on their long term home, Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings imprint.

‘Make You’ is a piece of work that almost perfectly encapsulates the ‘post-rave glow’ you feel after coming home after a heavy, but satisfying night out on the dancefloor. It is nostalgic, packed with character and emotional punch, and honestly, sounds like nothing else out at the moment. Not surprising given the pedigree of the two producers on show.

The opening track, the eponymous ‘Make You’, kicks things of in a cavernous reverb chamber, surrounded by submarine sonar-esq stabs, smoggy, dense atmospheres, disembodied vocal lines that are nearly muffled beyond comprehension, vast swathes of sub bass and clunky percussion hits. If ‘Ventolin’ by Aphex Twin is the sonic equivalent of having an asthma attack, then the first two minutes of ‘Make You’ are the sonic equivalent of tinnitus, you can’t quite hear what is going on and there is a constant buzz in your ears – it is a great observation of modern rave culture and a clever way to start the EP. The track finally unravels into a slow, head nod, bass music jam, with deep kicks and a simple sub bass line, layered under, skittery, world percussion, reverb drenched snares with the vocal samples dancing over the top of nostalgic, summery guitar chops.

It is these guitar chops and melodies, along with the continued use of vocal samples, which dominate proceedings throughout the course of the EP, popping up on three of the five tracks. Along with ‘Make You’, the guitar takes centre stage on the beatless finale ‘DMD’ and on ‘He Said No’, where it combines with a dense interplay of reverb soaked atmospheres, shuffled polyrhythmic percussion and half time snares. It all almost sounds like a kind of emotionally charged Balearic post dubstep type of thing.

The aforementioned vocal samples and manipulation, which at points over the course of the five cuts seem to be the aural equivalent of wading through a kind of sludge or thick, ghostly ectoplasm, are at their best on ‘Rumours’ where they are utilised in much the same way that made Machinedrum’s ‘Room(s)’ album so enjoyable; pitched, rhythmic and deliciously repetitive. The track is one of the more sparse affairs on the EP, with the shuffled kick drum pattern, clacketty, syncopated percussion, deep rim shots and sub bass stabs given more space to breath and work to their full effect. The track breaks down and builds back up into probably the works most rewarding section, where all the disparate elements, combine with mournful techno stabs, for the most rolling, dancefloor friendly section of the whole EP.

The expected influence of footwork shows it’s head on the more synthetic, although no less dense ‘The Waters Fine’ where the quick fire drum hits, that on occasion seem to wander off the grid combine with the heavily filtered vocal samples and happy chord stab melodies and emotionally moving harmonies.

All things said, ‘Make You’ is a good, cogent listen from start to finish. It is packed with longing and nostalgia and shows off with aplomb the duo’s ear for effective chord/harmonic progression and musicianship. It is the sound of two producers trying to make something a little bit different, and for the most part they succeed. It is no mean feat that they are able to combine such a melting pot of evolving sounds, both sampled and played into something that is both enjoyable, coherent and most importantly, ultimately accessible.

Sure there are criticisms of it, the main ones being; that at points the tracks get so mired in reverberated, sonic gloop that the other more crystallised elements don’t have any chance to breathe or sing; or the fact that at points I wished they would use something other than their almost ‘playing it safe’ vocal samples to impart the emotion clout they have achieved; or even maybe throwing in a curve ball with their drum sounds. I’m guessing though, that this was all just part of their design and plan to create the disciplined, lucid record that they have.

Al Kennedy

Buy the vinyl from April 15, and digital from April 22.