London based French duo Nummer’s new release for Going Good came swaddled with those three little words ‘One Per Customer’ on several online stores. I’ve learned to approach this labelling with wariness; too often recently I seem to have stumbled onto records that are long on kudos but short of any entertainment value. This time the reputation was further enhanced by several people I know and respect making cooing noises towards it. At the same time, I noticed a few references to Mood Hut embedded in those recommendations. Mood Hut are a fine label, with some interesting acts. But, curiously, I’ve never found myself entirely warming to a lot of their stuff. As good as they are, they lack the bite I’m looking for, an energy that makes me want to play the records over and over again. Still, the ayes had it and I picked up Reach.
Mostly, I’m glad I did. While I’m not sure that it quite deserves all of the praise, it’s an interesting and quite inspired departure from the current direction of left of centre house music. Where the contemporary trend seems to increasingly lean towards a fairly anodyne reproduction of classic house, or a mumbled, autistic take on the same material where the artistry seems to take precedent over the end result, Nummer have pushed off into a hinterland which is equal parts shade and glare. Whilst several sources have made allusions to a classical Detroit influence on the proceedings (an influence that is certainly there,) there are also parallels to be made with more contemporary work by the likes of Theo Parrish and his growing desire to unite jazz, funk and electronic music into a sound that defies easy categorisation. There are also other influences here that are perhaps as vital. As important as Detroit or Chicago might be to the sound, London and its almost unique collision of sounds and atmospheres plays a major role.
The two bigger tracks on the EP, Scion – which opens it – and Closed Time Loop are both experiments in deep space soul that manage to be expansive without ever becoming overbearing. Scion a rattling, sunburst kaleidoscope of hazy energy locked into the here and now by a wonderfully optimistic bass which exudes delight in the rain drops and waves of playful synths. Detroit is at its most apparent here, the fun of Atkins at his most laid back, perhaps soaring through the upper atmosphere, chasing clouds rather than hurtling through the further cosmos, following lost frequencies.
Closed Time Loop is of a similar ilk, but propelled by a fractal electroid breakbeat. Somewhere in its depths, beyond its Second Wave glamour, there is perhaps more to it; thin limbed spectres, folk memories of raves lost in the gloom but apparent in the fall and rise of the riff. It’s this more than any of the other tracks that pushes Reach into its own company. Like many other recent releases it is knowing, nodding its head to many influences obvious or otherwise, but it manages to sound fresher and more inventive. finely crafted yet very, very alive.
Marvin is an ambient interlude between those two tracks. a beatless weave of samples and drifting fairground wurlitzers that occasionally threatens to transcend but backs off into its own self-interest. It’s pretty but not vital. A sorbet of sorts.
Moon To Jupiter comes with the sort of name that begs Model 500 mannerisms. But while it has like the other tunes an edge to it, what is interesting is the way it seems primarily hark back to not to Detroit, but British techno of 20 years ago. There is a vibe to it that will be familiar to any fans of Mark Ambrose, Aubrey or the output of Offshoot records. It’s an intelligent, subtle groove that displays a lightness of touch and a warmth that is somewhat lacking in a lot of house music. Flecked with jazzy touches it rarely troubles itself with worrying too much about what it’s supposed to be. A whimsical ending to a record that suggests some people out there are looking beyond the current trends. A little self-aware, but a soulful adventure nevertheless.