Review: Herva – Dreamers Of Unknown Tales (Don’t Be Afraid)

herva

Italian producer Herva’s run of form that began with last years ‘Instant Broadcast’ has continued into 2015 with ‘HTMYO’, a great mini album on All City Records, and this new EP on Don’t Be Afraid. ‘Instant Broadcast’ came as a well-timed bit of relief when it arrived in the autumn, and brought invention, humour and a fine ear for ragged grooves back into a scene that seemed to be saturated by increasingly brittle and affected house. Although the album was occasionally a little bit self-indulgent, Herva’s taste for collages of samples, weird beats and trippy, disorienting atmospheres gave us a record that sounded like an ambient LP that had finally found the drinks cabinet, got loaded, and decided to see what all that house music stuff was all about. Something else about it only became apparent after a few listens: for all the gleeful chaos on the surface, there were some moments of true beauty hiding within it, and there were some proper bangers too.

‘HTMYO’ was a departure of sorts from the album, but the differences are even more pronounced here, on ‘Dreamers of Unknown Tales’. The overall sound is no less messy and frayed, but there is a noticeable tidying up of some of the more wilfully bonkers moments. The madder elements that mark Herva’s sound still have a place here, but it’s just that they feel better weighted than before, like they were included because they were needed rather than because they sounded interesting or strange.

There is also something more purposeful to ‘Dreamers….’. The album was great but it wasn’t a record you could ever accuse of being overly focussed or bothered about being a unified whole. Whether this change is down to the shorter length, I don’t know, but ‘Dreamers…’ four tracks just seem to sit better with each other. Of course, the fact that they are pretty much all examples of what Herva can do when he feels the need to lay down some grooves helps with that too.

But it’s proper grooves of a certain, dirty vintage that are on offer here. There is a lot to Herva’s game that recalls the twisted tongue in cheek humour of peak period Rephlex, or the wilful, maddeningly great obtuseness of Luke Vibert. It’s tied in with a little something extra, though: a little Chicago fire, perhaps, and a bit of colder European experimentalism.

Of the four track here, only the opener, Dreamer Of Unknown Tales, carries the torch for the album’s wonky experimental ambience. The other three dump their mate early on and get away in a high performance dance floor motor. From The Inside rakes at you for an eternity with filthy breakbeat percussion and some hissing acid squirts before the kicks arrive and link everything together just in time for one of Herva’s dreamy and fractured breakdowns to soften the craziness. It’s like Unspecified Enemies having a fight with A Guy Called Gerald, but in a very good way. Nice and Crispy is a teeny bit house-ier, but heavy with collage. The snips of vocals writhe lazily around the thick bass and some latin percussion which drive the track with a golden sunset vibe.

Pissed Monitoring, finally, is a gloriously 1990’s acid muck about. The crumpled kicks and the freely roaming acid bass make the tune sound like the most functional thing Herva has done for a while, but it drips with a demented humour and vision that finally meets its match with a huge rave peel towards the end.

Tightened up, funkier, but with its heart still in exactly the right place, ‘Dreamer….’ is a class follow-up to the fun and creativity of the last two records. Come for the beats, but stay for the smiles.

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