Reviews: Brassfoot – After Dark (Unknown To The Unknown)
Unknown To The Unknown have done well for themselves whilst occupying that uncertain ground where they are probably a little too tough for the chunky house bunch but a little too playful for the pinched faced techno brigade to get onboard with. That’s fine with me though, and in fact UTTU are one of the few labels currently doing something that feels different to the rest, and letting their tastes in rave, ghetto house and hardcore a free run all over the releases has helped to accent their material with a gritty but fun authenticity so lacking elsewhere. Even their more techno-y records tend to be closer in spirit to banging mid nineties Chicago than contemporary chin-rubbing and that, my friends, should be applauded.
Brassfoot’s first two releases (both of Apron) were acidic house flecked with heavy analogue touches and a grimy insouciance that took elements of the fading outsider house scene and stretched them into a far more functional, danceable and freaky whole. This first EP for UTTU moves away from that – at least to an extent. Less reliant on bangs and bites to make his point, this is somewhat looser music than we’ve previously heard even to the point where it seems to occasionally lose a bit of focus. But while there are dips, the overall feel is of a producer beginning to shift towards something more defined by groove and swing than rawness.
Tellingly, the rawer tracks tend to be the weakest, at least in comparison to the rest. Bass Deco, a clattering slice of moodiness and squirted acid crashes to its end in a few minutes without really building on the promise offered by some fine and interesting drum work. It hints at something more subtly powerful than is on display, something more fully electro shaped and storming but it never gets up enough steam to really let things fly. Likewise, We Made It Out The Hood, Ma simply lacks a sense of real purpose and is swamped by overused reverb which lends the tune a brittleness it doesn’t benefit from, which is a bit frustrating when you can see where the music is coming from. In both cases the ideas are there for sure, but neither feel entirely ready for prime time.
These are really just small bones compared to the other two tracks though, and both After Darkness and Indigenous Memories more than make up for the miss-hits. Indigenous Memories is closer in spirit and energy to the material from his Apron releases; tough, hardy and crawling, built on crumbling yet sharp beats and working the synths and percussion to create a tight and very tense atmosphere, it bristles with a surliness that feeds into the mesmerizing roll of the groove with icy precision. If anything, you want it to be longer, to work that attitude over and see where it goes.
After Darkness is the real departure from previous work, and it’s fantastic. A slab of proper old school funk propelled by a loose, cheeky break beats and carried by a perfectly weighted vocal snap that gives everything else the emotional heft to shift itself onwards and upwards, particularly when coupled with the deep, rubbery and thoroughly dirty bass. It’s great to see a producer reaching back for something other than a box full of classic house and disco for inspiration, and a real sense of glee and fun shines through.
It might not be a perfect record, but that is often the case when producers add another string to their bow. The two tracks that fail to entirely bring their game do so not because they are lacking in ideas, but because they are in the shadow of a couple of monsters and don’t quite have the clarity of vision to provide much opposition. That aside After Dark works best when it lets the grooves do the talking, and there are more than enough grooves here for the conversation to get rowdy.