It seems a strange thing to admit, but this is the first Mood Hut record I’ve ever reviewed here. I’ve not really got an explanation for this aside from the fact that their particular patented brand of slow and expansive house isn’t really something that’s captivated me in the same way it seems to have caught everyone else. I know, I know: I’m a philistine. What can I say? Not that there haven’t been releases I liked. On The Inner Plains by Titat Renat, for example, was a great mix of the label’s traditional sound with a cheekier, lighter vibe, and Cloudface’s excellent Devonian Garden took the deepness into a far more primal direction, lending the sound a thickness of groove I don’t often seem to get in Mood Hut releases.
Vancouver producer Leonard Campbell’s first release on his home town’s all conquering imprint has certainly been one of those records which has got the peanut gallery whispering. That’s hardly surprising. In his short career (very short – his first release was only back in 2014) Lnrdcroy has hardly put a foot wrong. His album, Much Less Normal strode all over ambient, house, techno and a whole mass of other more surprising influences, and made their unification sound like the most natural thing in the world. Beyond that, tunes like Do.ne or Sunrise Market have shown a rare flair for a sort of sleepy breakbeat brilliantly at odds with the current tastes for old school hardcore and rave.
Ooze City is almost a departure from his recent material, and feels at first as if a bit of the subtlety has been replaced by something altogether more battle hardened and direct. This altered attitude holds for large periods of the record; beats which in the past were liquid and free-floating have been reinforced with a steel core, and although the hazy psychedelia which has often been a cornerstone of Lnrdcroy’s sound is largely intact, here it haunts the periphery of a new focus which is tighter, spiralling and heavy.
There is also the feeling of heightened sonic exploration, and in the three tracks take something from the deeper, cosmic tripiness of early 90s techno. That they have all been given the space to do so is noticeable and important – the shortest tune on offer here clocks in at over eight minutes – and normally I would be concerned that free reign had been given to noodling. Here, though, they make full use of the time and space to conjure their magic. While Ooze City itself if perhaps the most conventional of bunch, opening with the vibe of a well bombed take on Hardfloor’s 303 infused visionary acid trance, it soon drops the acid into the background where it effectively begins to form the backbone to the slowly gathering mood of whispering pads which carry the tune’s meaning and ambition. The beats are clipped, focussed on the crisp, lively production to harass and harness the mood.
But as good as Ooze City is, it lacks something the other two tracks have in spades. The B side pushes things into a dense atmosphere where tribal drums tangle with a more ethereal take on house. Occasionally, as with Ooze, there is the sensation of being carried along on the wide wave of early 90s techno – but it’s a feeling which never last long; Lnrdcroy’s talent for texture and tone effortlessly reasserts it dominance over such easy influences.
Aquabus with its huge kicks and steel-cable bass is a long, heavenly builder that could have easily slipped into something ambling and less vital, but the bass snakes through the mood, keeping the groove tight no matter how often it feels likely to descend into messier, less effective territory. Its Kali Yuga, though, which best sums up the disparate touches and wide-screen visions at the heart of the record. Not a million miles from some of the long, languid and hypnotically trancey tracks which have cropped up on releases by the Bunker NY over the last couple of years, Kali Yuga rolls of with something of the memorable funk of Stacey Pullen’s long gone Bango project. This takes the tribal influences and puts them at the centre of the tune, weaving intricate rhythmic textures which are all but falling apart one minute, as tight and focussed as a machine the next. This is a belter of a tune – muscular in its groove, but delicate, thoughtful and haunting everywhere else. I’ll go out on a limb here and say this is not only one of the best things Leonard Campbell has done so far, but one of the best releases to have borne the Mood Hut name. A few more of this quality and they might even win over the last handful of doubters like me.