Review: Brown Irvin – Tone/Bay Fog (Motion Ward)

Brown Irvin – Tone (Motion Ward)

The slow roll of the outsider house fog seems to have parted somewhat over the last few months, with many of its producers either splitting in a more obviously housey direction, or crossing the line into a far more experimental landscape of techno tinged electronica. As a movement (even if it was only one in the minds of a few scribes here and there) it was probably never going to last longer than a few months; there was always something of a disconnect in the way it all hung together. Not that this was a negative, far from it. The disparate approaches of the host of producers that came under its virtual banner was one of the things that made it so interesting, just as it was the very thing that assured its short half-life.

What it all represented was an interesting break from the tight traditions of ‘proper’ house – a genre that is famously supposed to be about liberty and freedom but seems to increasingly be conservative in its thinking and its approach, and ever more in debt to its own past. While it would be inaccurate to say that outsider house was a new beginning, it did at least look beyond the mid eighties for its inspiration and drew on ideas that were less to do with party music and more to do with mood and sound. Perhaps more importantly, though, it allowed us access to the work of producers who didn’t seem to fit in with their house peers, and who brought with them different concepts of what the music could sound like.

Brown Irvin might be new to house and techno, but the LA native has been around for a while as AshTreJinkins, a DJ and producer of experimental hip hop. Interestingly, especially in conjunction with the release of this record on new label Motion Ward, is that his previous music shares a commonality with the shattered sonicisms that have begun to rise to prominence within electronica over the last couple of years. It’s a good match.

Tone/Bay Fog, then, is a pretty tight statement of intent from an artist moving into a new world. Elements of it are familiar enough, and bear a passing resemblance to the dusky explorations of Patricia, say, or Mooodcut. Much is in the murk and depth of the two tunes, especially Tone, a focussed, maudlin groove that takes time to build out of the smog that seems to envelope it at the start. It moves with an economy of motion, at least at first, taking its time to layer in the little touches below the gentle curve of the synths, and drawing on the ricochet claps to lend the smallest colouring of urgency until it comes to life. It’s a definite winner, and one that adds warmth and low slung funk to a musical form that often relies a little too much on its approach over emotional connection.

Bay Fog is more fractured and less quick with its pleasures. Even so, a couple of listens reveal a sparkling sonic landscape that fluctuates in mood and light, and pushed by a dervish of percussion until it takes off. While not the equal of Tone’s calm introspective journey, it doesn’t need to be, rendering instead a snapshot of colour and constant motion.

It’s a strong début, and one that is in turn recognizable and refreshingly individual. If Brown Irvin is thinking about a permanent shift in direction from his past musical life, I think there will be plenty of ears turned his way. Excellent.