Tessela – ‘Rough 2’ (R&S)

2013 was a breakthrough year for Ed Russell, better known to you and I as Tessela. The rave affectations of ‘Hackney Parrot’ stole the summer, and in the process caught the attention of R&S who promptly signed up the young producer up. His first offering for the seminal Belgian label, ‘Nancy’s Pantry’, was another banger that skewed Hardcore reference points into something distinctly current and visceral. With Russell’s Radio 1 residency earlier in the year serving to cement his meteoric rise, it should come as no surprise that his first release of the year – his sophmore effort for R&S, comes burdened by the weight of considerable expectations.

Perhaps feeling under pressure to deliver more of the same, Russell comes speeding straight out of the gate on the opening and title track. A batacuda style drum pattern is paired with a kick and slathered in reverb to the point of sounding absolutely gargantuan before lasers arrive, evoking the producer’s now familiar air of Rave nostalgia. At this point in the track one could be forgiven for thinking its all systems go towards dancefloor delirium, but instead ‘Rough 2’ ends up finding itself rather stuck in the mud. Some pitch adjusted synth chords drone atop the rhythm section, which whilst not wholly unpleasant or unwarranted rather take the wind out of the track’s impressively propulsive momentum. The lasers re-enter the fray in the final third and grow gradually more frazzled, yet its hard to escape the feeling that the track ultimately falls rather short of the promise alluded to at its start.

‘Butchwax’ finds Russell operating with considerably more focus, the drums bang harder, the lazers zing harder and the pace remains unrelenting throughout. A fusion of amped up Hip-Hop breaks and chugging Techno rhythms, the onsalaught is augmented nicely by a four bar detour into a metallic ‘Funky Drummer’ esque breakdown. The highlight of the three tracks on offer, it most effectively communicates the sonic personality that has hitherto been Russell’s calling card – brutally effective, yet also with enough nuance and variation to distinguish itself from the legions of producers operating on similar territory.

Closing off the EP is ‘Cmon, Lets Slow Dance’, a cut that finds Russell operating further away from the dancefloor than ever before. For a fast rising producer such as Russell, the temptation to display his versatility by trying something different is understandable – although unfortuantely this ends up coming across as a rather unnecessary indulgence as opposed to a ground shattering innovation. Through four plus largely beatless minutes we’re given more of the same laser sounds repeated ad nauseam, with the occasional swell of bass anchoring things somewhat. Neither functional nor engrossing, it largely sounds like a collection of effects in search of a beat.

Whilst ‘Butchwax’ will ensure Russell’s reputation as a supplier of club ready heat doesn’t take too much of a beating, the EP is overall a rather disappointing shortfall on the promise alluded to with his previous releases. However as a young producer with bags of ability and a canny ear, it would most certainly be unwise to discount him on the basis of one underwhelming EP.

‘Rough 2’ is out next Monday 14th July on R&S. You can pre-order your copy here.

Christian Murphy 

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