Reviews: Cosmic Garden – Sealaconda (Happy Skull); Karim Sahraoui – Alpha & Omega (ARTS)

Karim Sahraoui – Alpha & Omega (ARTS)

When Derrick May reactivated his Transmat label back in 2014 after a few years break, it was to French producer Sahraoui he turned for a pair of well received EPs. Although the records never really garnered quite the attention you might have expected of something bearing the Transmat label, they did a decent turn in deep techno, simultaneously recalling something of Detroit’s gentler, moodier moments whilst pushing themselves towards a slightly more contemporary take on the genre.

Sahraoui reappears here for his second release on ARTS, bringing with him the same diffuse form with which he’s made his name. The three tracks are nice, swinging away under the light of their own neatness, and replete with a sense of quiet, rather unassuming drama which unfolds with a nod to the sort of warm, languid techno which, for all the currrent trends for deepness, isn’t often heard these days. Water and Life and Land Of The Promise mesh grooves, strings and moods together into gentle summer storms; they accent their forward momentum with dappled light. Land Of the Promises, in particular, shows clearly why May has lent Sahraoui so much support, with its Rhythim Is Rhythim styling, and crystalline strings stinging and caressing in equal measure.

Once We Are There gets its head down straight away in a more direct burst of symphony and funk, less prone to wandering flights of aural fancy than either of the other two tracks. While it doesn’t quite have Land Of the Promises sunrise majesty, it builds into soulful odyssey of rolling chords and cloudy pads. While Alpha and Omega is occasionally a little bit too whimsical for its own good, a little to prone to building pretty shapes for no other reason than because it can, it still manages to captivate with a sense of freedom and movement which sets it apart from so much of the trending deepness currently doing the rounds.

Cosmic Garden – Sealaconda (Happy Skull)

While it might not seem so at first listen, Cosmic Garden’s début EP on Bristol outfit Happy Skull shares a little DNA with the Sahraoui record above. But while both records are heavy eyed with a dreamy energy, Sealaconda is far more willing to explore beyond the edge, and drapes that vibe over a harder heart. It’s smart music too, trawling shapes and textures from the late 80s and early 90s but refusing to let them douse the subtle heat which is so prevalent throughout the record.

Those 80s and 90s touches are less verbalized than you might expect too – although the shape of a tune such as Sealaconda warms itself in the glow of the sort of early house which has largely been relegated to supporting chapters in the Great Story, the edges are gloriously frayed; rougher than much of the genre is these days, but perfectly in keeping with the ethos which pushed the original music the first time around, and the sliding melodies prime a lovely wide-eyed euphoria. The pair of remixes on the flip, courtesy of Creta Kano, soak both original tunes in the depths. Sealaconda is loosened and slowed, but fractured and loses too much of the original’s delicate joy, letting it burn off at the expense of paler hues. His mix of Preoccupata, though, is a lesson in shade and groove, and displays a lightness of touch and firmness of direction which gathers feathery pads together with a supremely understated acid bass and little else before slanting it towards the distant ocean floor.

Preoccupata itself rules the roost. Once again those nods to the past are in place, but they’re far more overt, although never detracting from the strangely (and effective) solemnity of the tune. The vocal, threading its way through the sparkle and glimmer of the melody, perc and beats, adds a lilting and intense edge to the music, moving it from ‘simple’ house music into something more primal and experimental. It’s a classy peak on a record which displays an interesting and excitingly fresh refraction of older ideas. A subtle, smart record that’ll reward much listening.