Review: Coni – Imaginarium Essai EP (The Trilogy Tapes)

Looking through the TTT listings on Discogs is a useful way of reminding yourself just how busy the label has been over the last couple of years. It’s also a great method to refamiliarize yourself with a body of work which helped to usher a sense of experimentalism and prime sonic mayhem back into the wider underground, a place which had begun to feel a bit sleepy under the weight of all the slick, polished and ultimately safe techno and house that appeared as minimal began to retreat.

Coni’s entry into the club is maybe a departure, seeming a straighter affair and one that is less prone to bursts of boundary pushing, except the ClekClekBoom teamster’s first record away from his home label is deceptive in that respect. Imaginarium Essai might sound at first like a late arriving example of dusty outsider house (and Coni’s previous records certainly fit well into that framework), but once you get past the surface similarities it opens up into something altogether wider.

The beats are treacle thick and reminiscent of the drowsy heaviness that producers like Vester Koza specialize in, a sort of future-dub that swaps the foundation shaking bass and other traditional trappings of the genre for less tangible touches of mood that work in the space left behind. On Imaginarium Essai this is only the starting point, and it quickly becomes apparent the woozy deepness isn’t really the point, that Coni is more concerned with an exploration of tone than he is in dealing out ambling late night numbers.

Imaginarium Essai trawls a jazzy, noirish hinterland that owes a debt to trip-hop’s angular and often languid soundscaping, regardless of its loosely regimented 4/4 kicks. Its moodiness articulates a groove that is otherwise almost incidental, bringing it to life as a shuffling half-stomp that plays back into the tune with a world-weary vibe, accenting the bass and little shivers of synth with quiet despair and drama. Zex Plongeon starts with similar pretensions but favours a slow approach which gradually grows into a long, hypnotic trip along a sunless road. It’s the deepest track on the record, and heavier than you would suspect, with granite, mud encrusted kicks dominating its direction, but there is little else in the tune that could add a dissenting voice, stripped as it is of all but the necessary. As a result it can sometimes feel oppressive, lacking some oxygen under its own heft.

Into The Silly World and Louis & Juno inject something into the mix which isn’t lighter so much as less serious. Into The Silly World lock the beats down into a tighter pattern, and rides a fractured, wonky riff to deliver some broken funk that oozes with dirty humour and richer colours than are to be found elsewhere. Louis & Juno revisits some of the mood of Imaginarium Essai but eschews beats completely, focusing instead of teasing out a lonely, rainy melody that weaves around the pangs of bass and skittish, distant percussion to subtle but potent effect.