Chairman Kato – ‘Wildfire’ EP (Pictures Music)

Pictures Music, the forward-thinking label that brought you Seam’s Tourist EP, return with yet another collection of sure fire neck-breakers in the form of Chairman Kato’s ‘Wildfire’ EP, available from February 14th.

While London-based Kato plies his trade in instrumental beat collages, an air of contemplative acumen runs through his work, and ‘Wildfire’ is far more suited to listening sessions in the small hours than keeping the dance floor happy: a faultless mix of analogue synths and woozy, pleasingly off- kilter beats. Recorded at his own studio above a synagogue in east London, ‘Wildfire’ is a progressive release for the producer, who mentions the pioneers of experimental electronic music of the 70’s and 80’s as a recent influence.

Menacing opening track ‘Fighting Fires’ has an unsettling ambience, low register synths and distant, reverb-laden dialogue clips build towards a beat that scoops the whole thing up and lurches off with it into the distance. ‘No Coincidence’ picks up the tempo, throwing some 8-bit blips into the mix over distorted bass and frenzied drums, but the dark night backstreet mood is still in full effect; a satisfying answer to the interrogation of ‘Fighting Fires’ opening gambit.

Kato cites film soundtracks in the vein of Bladerunner, Twelve Monkeys and Shinya Tsukamoto’s psychotic Testuo, The Iron Man as big influences on this set, and the cinematic crescendos on tracks such as ‘Streets of Rage’ – a frantic beat that also mimics the kinetic nature of its computer game namesake – are clear evidence of this.

Describing ‘Wildfire’ without making a reference to Flying Lotus would be an admirable feat, but the LA producer’s name has become so synonymous with the new generation of instrumental hip-hop/trip-hop/electro beat-makers that its convenience as a starting point is too great to ignore. That’s not to say Kato doesn’t forge his own style, for that he does, and none more so than on Gemini Eyes, a meditative oasis of calm between the riotous tracks either side, albeit one with deliciously eerie undertones. The cut gets even more sedated on a Teasmith Version reworking; available for free download below.

Signing off with a fine example of song name onomatopoeia, ‘Thuddd’ unapologetically stamps its way all over your speakers without even taking its shoes off, its distorted in-your-face drums not once obscuring the musical craft on show: a strategically placed wake-up call after the lull of ‘Gemini Eyes’. Another strong release from a label making its name as a key exponent of thought-provoking electronic music.

Tom Quickfall

‘Wildfire’ is out now on Pictures Music.

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