Review: Protic – Vector (Unity Glasgow)

Club night Unity Glasgow have been going a while now. Although it’s easy for a night to disappear into the background noise of everything else that’s happening, it’s usually worth paying attention when the next step is taken. In Glasgow, that usually means starting a label and seeing what happens.

Unity resident Protic’s debut is (I think) the young label’s second release, following on from Aita by Nois last year. As an example of any Glasgow sound (itself an ill-defined and expansive thing) Vector tends to shy away from the more openly debauched and experimental side of things, leaning closer to a purer form of dancefloor energy than is sometimes seen here.

Let’s say this first. I’m not sure whether Vector is entirely certain of the direction it wants to take. While the overall feel of the EP is one aimed at a big room sound, it layers in the slighter slink of tech-house, occasionally bursts out in a sort of old-school ravey energy and rounds thing off with a some (very nice, I have to say) synth work that pushes everything towards melodic techno territory, and even dips towards a sort of neo-dub flavouring here and there. While this sort of approach can work – and work well – it takes iron will to stop it from becoming too much of an influence soup.

This is particularly noticeable on Vector itself, which opens with a downward pulling dub groove which never quite let’s go despite the track quickly departing in another direction. It feels too much like several disparate tunes trying to echo common themes for it to entirely come together. It tightens its focus considerably after the halfway mark when it begins to latch on to a slowly rising acidy warble which is all strobes and smoke, finally beginning to pull everything together. Structure suffers less from this initial confusion, and begins in a similar area to where Vector left off, but never strays very far from there. It leaves some interesting ideas languishing in a bit of a tech-house cul-de-sac, which is fine enough, but it needs to electrify its groove to really get things going.

The other two tunes are far stronger, both in terms of knowing what they want to be and understanding how to go about it. Formation delivers some swirling and playful sounds that beckon to the ears as much as the feet. The real star though is a beautifully understated bass line that provides the engine missing from the other two tracks. It grabs the tune early on, pushing and pulling at the synths and drums until it has them just where it wants them to be, and harkens back to an era when techno was still beholden to house music’s way of delivering a soulful groove from raw machine parts.

Best of the lot is Trajectory. Introspective and captivating, it draws on the slightest of electro touches and adds them to shimmering, liquid synths and some clever percussion. That’s all there is to it; for all the feeling of busyness it remains wonderfully sparse, and the simplicity of it is the vehicle which delivers its impact.

Sifting through influences is a skill that some producers never learn, much less understand the need for, but Protic revels in a lightness of touch and understanding of mood that belays some of the more obvious moments on display and is without doubt at his best when he lets his definite artistry guide him instead of his tastes. And while Vector suffers a bit from uncertainty of what it wants to be, there is plenty here to suggest that if this is Protic just getting started, we could be in for something special in the future.

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