Review: Rawaat – Day Laborer (Lobster Theremin)

Given the huge amount of small labels that are springing into life, it is no surprise that sometimes you miss one or two. Often you are aware of them, even the artists they release, but for one reason or another they tend to remain somewhere on the periphery of your focus. It is almost a given, in this age of musical overload, that some will be lost in the general background noise only to make you feel like a right idiot when you finally pay attention.

I have to admit that I have been aware of London-based Lobster Theremin for a while but had never bought anything by them. I’ve enjoyed occasional tracks by their various artists just fine, but they fell somewhere down my list of priorities, filed under the ‘Good but have another look later’ section of my brain. It has come as a bit of a surprise, then, that this release by Detroit native Rawaat is just about the best record I think I’ve heard this year.

While there is much on offer that will put you in mind of the sort of scuffed, sample heavy House by the likes of Huerco S or Austin Cesear, Rawaat brings something else to the table. Right from the off, with the vaporous, indistinct and quite beautiful ambient opener Caverns Of Reflection there is a feeling of a deep knowledge of House and Techno’s past being reworked into something new. Caverns Of Reflection’s haziness is rich with the textures of early nineties ambient-house. It’s part Orb-like aquatic tripiness, part Irresistible Force in its dimension morphing subtlety, and it’s these atmospherics and touches that go on to define the entire A side. Exp2 is a breathless yet insistent work-out of slow kicks and wobbling bass which anchor the gorgeous little riff that slowly melts into existence. It’s so drifting that it is a surprise that it makes it to the end, rather than vanishing back into whatever other-world it hailed from in the first place.

Motion Sensor pushes further into the territory of experimental soundscape. A pulsed, off-centre time signature and copious samples of whistles and blurred tribal drums lend the thing the feel of a rave at the edge of nowhere remembered, quite by chance, from across the distance of years. Again, there is something Orb-like about it, perhaps even Future Sound of London. But where the Orb always wore their Dub influences on their sleeve (hell, their clothes were made of pure Dub) Rawaat uses simple motifs instead to hold the ethereal nature of the piece in place. The drums themselves don’t even marshal the track, being little more than more than flecks of darker colour on the canvas.

The B-side is given over to Day Laborer itself, both the original and a remix by Huerco S. These are more up front tracks, closer in spirit to the current sound of Detroit as showcased by the likes of Jay Daniels. The beats come quickly, without ever pounding; the scatter-gun snares bite and snap against the sharpened hats.The tune moves along under the aural sunset provided by the deep synthwork and a snippet of vocals so perfectly weighted that it draws your mind away from the havoc of the beats, leaving your body free to get on with the job. The remix is almost as good, eschewing the alien sound of the original in favour of a lush, functional and almost Balearic take on the proceedings with a riff that takes you by the hand and leads you towards morning. Amazing stuff, and it deserves your attention right now. Without doubt my record of the year so far.

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