Review: Kalla – Enter The Sponk (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

Kalla – Enter The Sponk (Dixon Avenue Basement Jams)

DABJ’s movement from a label furnishing us with some killer and classic feeling house and acid to something a bit grubbier and wonkier over the last couple of years reaches an interesting point with this début release from Irish artist Kalla. Anyone expecting something in the vein of Marquis Hawke’s Chi-throbbers or Jared Wilson’s endlessly, effortlessly bubbling acid are going to have their brains rewired a wee bit, because Enter The Sponk takes off from a far more distant launch pad.

The two heavier tracks here draw on a dirty Blawan-esque take on techno, one that rolls on concrete kicks and demented burst of strangled vox which hurtle you into strobe-splattered warehouse territory. As nasty and spiky as they are, there is also something playful about them; Klear That Path blooters along, guided by a single razor hi-hat but mashes a touch of prime Relief era Chi-town madness into the mix along with the hammer blows, and reduces the whole lot down to a sort of Djaxy, rough and tough jacker. Slurrp Dat gets its head even further down, coming up for air here and there just about long enough to see the demented grin behind the pounding, serrated bass.

It’s the other two tracks which really work these hard grooves the best though. Slippers On The Dancefloor sets of at a similar clip as the others, but tempers the fierceness and forward momentum with glistening stabs of synth which both sooth the unquiet mind and broaden the tune’s vistas, stretching it out and lending it a haze of subtlety. TYF is the most intriguing, blending a lazier yet sparkling vibe with garage toughness which rolls through the tune and holds everything at that point below take-off velocity where sweaty things begin to happen.

What’s most exciting here, not just on TYF but across the whole release, is the way in which even the older touches – the brusque, ravey, old-school warehouse energy, the grooves carved out of the murk – fit into something which is more than just a nod to influences. All of the tunes are coloured and tempered with a serious humour, and a sure-footedness which makes sure that the funk is put front and centre.

It all comes off just about perfectly; the combination of dirty techno and more uplifting mood furnishes the EP with the undeniable aura of a record which knows what it’s about but isn’t afraid to push on into less travelled realms. Hard, but slyly cheeky and never as bruising as it first seems, Enter The Sponk makes for an intriguing début for Kalla, and for DABJ a possible hint of a slightly new direction.

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