One of the reasons I’ve been a fan of Vester Koza since his first appearance back in 2012 was that he seemed to come out of nowhere in possession of an almost complete artistic vision. His arrival coincided with the sudden explosion of the lo-fi house scene – a genre that promised much but has since descended into formulaic noise – and Koza found himself placed out on the periphery of it regardless of the fact that his music had little in common with what everyone else seemed to be doing.
And what music it was. Created out of a fluidity of grooves and a deepness that owed more to mood and emotion than clichéd chords, and pulled taut with a thread of individualism that marked him out as a producer who knew his own mind, the three previous records skirted around contemporary styles with a rare élan that drew on dub techno, sharp sound design and subtle trance-like atmospherics (trance, as in shamanistic rather than tie-dyed and gurning) to build murky, empty and haunting worlds out of shadow. Even now I think his self titled début was one of the strongest first releases I’ve heard in many years, and it’s follow-up a year later confirmed he was no one-shot. I didn’t love the third record quite as much, I have to admit. Something seemed to have intruded into Koza’s private world, and the music felt less wild; calmed by exposure to the herd. It had its merits, especially on the B-side, but neither tune reached the same heights as Transit from the debut, or Beauty from Out Of The Blue.
Paradoxically, Prisn has shed the crowded feel of Maslo 3, but also shorn off a lot of what was so special in the first place. That makes it sound like I’m going to be harsh about Prisn, and I probably would be if the record had turned into a pale imitation of what we know Koza is capable off. The thing is, it’s a very different type of beast. Although I probably wouldn’t go as far as to claim that this is a reinvention, there is little doubt that the focus has shifted from dubby and skittish grooves into something far more abstract. As icy and alien as his work has often been up until this point, there has always been a bud of warmth somewhere in its midst. Prisn is a bleaker experience, even more downbeat than before. At times it is almost seems a flat-lining emotional journey, tired out and world-weary. It is for the most part an unsettling experience, but one that sits in stark contrast to the legions of increasingly dull house and techno that’s clogging up the scene’s musical arteries.
Importantly, it is also a record that is, at times, deeply beautiful and reflective. BIND_DREAM_SERVICE recalls the desolate and aching isolation of Biosphere at their best. It stumbles over its infrequent beats, picked up into the loving embrace from the gorgeous pads. GET_INTENT, and DECIVEID are both slower pitched and darker, heavier even. GET_INTENT in particular is a slo-mo industrial throb that departs entirely from Koza’s normal sound; breathless and unkempt, it’s kept in check by an overarching sense of something sentient and machine like watching over it.
Only OPT_iCAL_IN revisits familiar ground. A warmer, dubbier sound, it feels slightly out-of-place amongst the other tracks’ fractured ambience. It doesn’t put both feet in the past, though, retaining Prisn’s darker mood and locking it over a groove that thickens over the tune’s length until it warps into a chilled, hypnotic house ride that owes as much to the point where club music collides with the trippier end of rave and ambient techno as it does with Koza’s vacuum sealed world. Prisn may not return to Koza’s own immediate past, but his determination to do things his own way is undiminished.