Monday, 14 June 2010

PRE-ORDER: Late - Phantom Papers [Immerse]

Over the last couple of years, the resurgence of garage beats in post-dubstep music (owed at least in part, I suppose, to Burial’s wake) has fuelled my own speculation as to just why they are capable of sounding so haunted. It seems like a strange fate, in a way, for beats normally associated with the sexy flex of turn-of-the-millennium two-step to be co-opted by a new generation of producers using them to denote loneliness and melancholy. I suppose the clue’s in their construction really; a two-step beat is already a skeleton of the past, with the excesses of earlier rave musics trimmed away to leave only the bare essentials needed to make bodies move. When further displaced from an obvious dancefloor context, the minute snags and slippages in the rhythm of a swung beat leave space for the mind to fill in those gaps with personal and shared memories.

Since Burial showed that the form could have real emotional resonance away from the floor, a whole host of producers have been following in similar footsteps by carving out distinct sounds. Scuba’s achingly sad ‘Negative’ might well be the best of them so far, but Finnish producer Late’s new double pack for Immerse, the Phantom Papers EP, offers yet another angle. His sound, especially on lead track ‘Losing You,’ is undoubtedly in debt to Burial, but it would be a mark of journalistic laziness to pin it down as mere copyism. Instead it’s filled with a dubbed out sense of space that’s more Berlin than London; the beat itself seems to hang in a void, sending ripples outward through its structure as it moves.

Elsewhere, the undulating, uber-percussive ‘Bittersweet’ sounds a little like a Hessle Audio track, if the label’s crisp ‘n’ dry aesthetic was shorn of its edges and heard through an underwater loudspeaker. ‘Under These Conditions’ has a similar aquatic feel, and proves to be the EP’s highlight, an opening vocal section holding back for the delayed payoff of a beautifully simple, canned synth melody. The title track, meanwhile, drops the tempo and crafts a beautifully delicate piece of hip-hop, its expansive reverb leaving it a wraith in a sea of sound. As an EP, Phantom Papers holds together admirably, fitting neatly into the Immerse label’s more considered aesthetic but also striking out in surprisingly affecting directions.

Words: Rory Gibb
Out: 28th June


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