Review: Daze – Lips (Lobster Theremin)

Having been a bit slow off the mark when it came to Lobster Theremin it seems that I have begun to pay attention at just the right time. Day Laborer by Rawaat remains one of the best releases of the year so far, but it’s not the only feather in LT’s cap. The label seems to have hit a true purple patch – represses of their earlier Palms Trax material has drawn attention back to them at just the right time for a slew of new releases which probably represent their strongest offerings to date. Aside from Day Laborer, and the thunderously atmospheric Raw Energy EP by Imre Kiss, Lips by Daze is evidence of a crew who are very much on the button.

Although the taste for Lo-Fi House, gritty analogue noise and badly photocopied Acid is as strong as it has been at any point over the last couple of years, there is a sense that other influences are beginning to make their presence felt. In the same way that both Rawaat and Imre Kiss had lovingly plundered the early days of Ambient House to great success (and, in doing so, brought a level of danciness and fun to the sounds that The Orb themselves, say, never managed) Daze has streaked off on a tangent to the steamy beginnings of UK Rave.

That doesn’t tell the whole story. Rave itself was the result of a collision of ideas and sounds that were originally scattered all over. The textures of the two Big US cities were there, layered under what was happening in London and the already fading Acid House scene plus other bits ‘n’ pieces washed up upon its shores along the way. Anyone looking for authenticity is on to a loser. The great thing about early Rave was that it was a mongrel; it’s DNA uncertain, its parentage confused.

Right away, with the crawling breakbeat Acid of A2, we have a tune that is part heritage and part tomorrow music. The throbbing, croaking 303 and the haunting, almost cheesy synths are memories of nights gone by. But there is an urgency to the raw, sloppy and wild beats that is very modern. It’s loose and ready for a fight, wrong footing you and vanishing behind the acid before skipping back into existence.

Drag Ball swaps the implied threats for a swift, golden and anthemic journey into the clouds. The simplicity of the repeated motif lifts the weight off the crunching and overdriven drums and gives plenty of room for the skip and clatter of some fine percussion work underneath. It’s so very nearly beautiful, yet wonderfully scarred by the underscored harshness.

I imagine it’s the B-side tracks that are going to be getting the most plays. Lips (DAT Mix) contains the same elements as Drag Ball but propels them with the metallic thrust of a proper old school breakbeat. As strong as the breakbeat is, though, it’s never quite allowed to steal away from the glorious sunburst of the pads or the finely pitched vocal that hangs like smoke in the space between the beats.

Lips (Skyline Mix) is perhaps a slightly unnecessary epilogue, essentially reworking the mix to bring those pads forward. The hard work, though, was already done at the start of the side, and the huge, seemingly heavily compressed sweep of the upper registers seems to unbalance the track, pushing our attention in the wrong way. It’s still beautiful and suns-kissed, just a bit lop-sided; a vainer, more insistent version of its gorgeous and finely understated twin.

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