Kel: Kel EP – 7777

One of the dangers of digital delivery systems for music is the ubiquity of sites offering single track purchases. In fact, this tends to be about all of them nowadays. With vinyl you pay for the full record. Sometimes you get a bunch of tracks that work and speak to you as a whole, other times you get unlucky and come away paying a premium price for maybe one track out of three or four that you are going to listen to more than once. Sometimes, though, you get end up with tracks that, on first listen, don’t seem to do much to you but, before you know it, they are consuming your every thought. You find yourself on the subway humming ‘Ignored B-side 2’ rather than ‘Hit Tune ‘.

This is one of the beautiful things about music: that feeling when you’ve found a track, maybe buried away deep within an album, that you come back to over and over again. It’s what makes all the digging worthwhile. As DJs, we are perhaps even more enthrall to this feeling. I think it’s a danger that so many DJs ignore everything except the hits, because so often it’s the tunes that you miss first time out that turn out to be the real killers.

Kel – real name Elias Landberg – is better known as one half of Skudge (and owner of Skudge Records), a Swedish act that I’ve often enjoyed without getting entirely behind. A string of records that other people I know and respect seem to rave about have left me not so much cold, but a little indifferent. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it is simply that there has always been something else to buy ahead of them. We live in a time of audio deluges; it’s impossible to catch everything.

I’m wondering whether that has been a bit of an oversight on my part. Jared Wilson’s 7777 label is hardly L.I.E.S when it comes to its release schedule. This is the labels sixth release in seven years. However, given the slightness of 7777s oeuvre, you cannot accuse Wilson of messing about; he knows his stuff.

The lead track, Phyta is both very modern whilst being utterly old school. It eschews the Lo-Fi approach of so much contemporary Acid to create something that pulses with a life I haven’t heard in a very long time. I mentioned Hawtin’s seminal Plus 8 label recently in another review – Phyta echoes with that acidy, edgy energy of so much of the Detroit second wave that passed through Hawtin’s grasp. It’s a slow roller: precise 303s add funk to the spectral pads that subtly give lift to the tracks angelic flight.

Chiral is more playful; a tiger cub chasing a ball of steel wool. The 303s are down low in hunting mode, snapping at prey as they pass by, following the thunderous claps as they carve a path through the thick hi-hats and tumbling toms. I’ve been playing it all night, mixing it in and out of a Anthony Shakir tune, astounded at how well they go together. Like twins separated by a generation. Landberg doesn’t just give the primal urges free rein, though. The choral sublimity of High Tech Soul hangs above the rest of the track like mists over the forest.

But it’s Airwalk I think I’ll be coming back to. If I was the sort to buy one tune from a release this is the one I would have missed. Less grand than Phyta, less immediate than Chiral, it is probably the least fully realised of the trio, a fragment in some senses, but somehow more wonderful for all that. The same pads that haunted Phyta are here married to a taunting, taut, scatter-step beat. By far the most aggressive thing on the record, even if so much of that is internalized. It comes at you from behind a curtain of synths and makes it mark before vanishing again into nothingness, leaving you wondering whether it was really there at all. A creature of the shade that deserves many moments in the light.

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