Saturday, 1 January 2011

RECOMMENDED: West Norwood Cassette Library - Blonde On Blonde/Pearson Sound Remix [Teal]

When West Norwood Cassette Library’s debut turned up earlier this year, it presented a confusing front. Considering 2010’s growing fetish for cassettes among lo-fi circles and an increasing tendency towards nostalgia (both from the lighthearted, often throwaway output of the chillwave set, and the warped, disturbing vignettes emerging from Not Not Fun and Olde English Spelling Bee), here was a producer whose name suggested an obsession with looking backward. Hell, before spinning ‘What It Is’ for the first time I fully expected to hear beats coated with static and analogue crackle, a thin haze of distortion and perhaps some heavily reverbed vocals chucked in for good measure. That it proved instead to be a jittery, anxious take on dubstep’s mutant template was a surprise, but a welcome one; instead of taking a rose-tinted look at the past, this was an impressively futuristic statement.

Still, with the release of his last 12” – the shimmering, deep house infused ‘Mrs. Fingers’ – and now the latest, ‘Blonde On Blonde’, his name has begun to make far more sense. ‘Mrs. Fingers’ offered a vision of dubstep as derivative of early house, all delicately swirling chords and a peculiar, offset groove. It occupied much the same territory as DJ Sprinkles’ gorgeous, elegiac Midtown 120 Blues album, examining the past with an emotive, if time detached, eye. ‘Blonde On Blonde’ goes one further, and sees him craft an anthemic slice of jackin’ house that, were its production values not subtly indicative of now, could have been made at any time over the last twenty years or so. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t fit neatly into current UK music trends; despite its gritty pockmarked surface, WNCL’s sound has an appreciation for bass-heavy immediacy that marks it out as a product of now. In that sense he fits neatly alongside much of the Olde English Spelling Bee label roster, who rebuild the sounds of the past into shapes that, whilst referential, are just as concerned with recent developments.

Securing man of the moment David Kennedy for the remix was a wise move; if the A-side delights in house music’s past, Pearson Sound’s version stares into its future. Admittedly it’s one of his subtler tracks in a while, slowing the juke and jungle inflections of his big hitters from this year (‘Work Them’; ‘Grab Somebody’; ‘Blanked’) into a stammering slo-mo groove, but delicately sliced vocals and a convincingly massive, synth-laden breakdown in the middle give the game away. A disorienting double kick-drum pulse lends the whole thing an aura of menace, like coming to your senses at 7 or 8 am and suddenly realising you’re left with one hell of a long, cold journey home. While it lacks the distinct percussive tics of much of his recent music, as usual you’re left safe in the knowledge that Kennedy continues to operate within his own unique, but impressively broad, niche.

Words: Rory Gibb
Out: Now

West Norwood Cassette Library - Blonde On Blonde [Teal]


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