Label: Shades of Grey
There tends to be a distinction in dance music between artists who create precise, finely wrought music and those who create club-demolishing peak tracks, with the former rarely packing as much energy while the latter doesn’t often offer as much subtlety and enjoyment to the listener off the dancefloor. Here on his first release on nascent London label (and club night) Shades of Grey, headman Luke Harris does an astonishing job of combining the two; crafting a collection of delicate and nuanced tunes that still pack a massive punch.
Maybe I’m just surprised because this is the first I’ve heard of Duct, or because the first time I listened to these tunes they didn’t hit me all that hard, but on repeated listens (and a bigger system) every track here shines bright. All four tunes could find their rightful place somewhere in a club, but two stand out as more overtly dancey than the others. First cut Jessica’s Garden is one such track, launching right into a fantastic groove with clean tropical beats and a rising bassline. Each sound that Duct uses feels carefully treated and applied to his tracks, meaning that the tunes are consistently varied and interesting. By the midway point of Jessica’s Garden we have not only the beats, synths, and drowned vocal line but also a sampled half-gasp, blips of static that tear through the fabric of the track and a whole range of clever details (one-off vocals, birdsong) that compliment the breakdown. If one word springs to mind more than any other to describe Duct’s production, it’s ‘tight’. The sense of timing is impeccable throughout, building tension and releasing it as if effortlessly, with clean, rounded sounds giving the tracks a real sense of depth and power. The most impressive of Circles’ dance offerings is third cut Love Crazy, which builds slowly over distant vocals, complex drum patterns and an occasional synth line that sears across the track, leaving bright traces. Back-and-forth synth sweeps move from bassline to melody and back again, until eventually the track drops, releasing its coiled-up momentum expertly. Again it’s the details that make the track so impressive, particularly how the track builds masterfully towards the second drop; the vocal spiralling faster and faster, a rising acid-line out of nowhere, one beat of silence before the track falls satisfyingly back into place.
Of the two other tracks, Blackheath could still justifiably be danced to. Here reverb-drenched chimes create a powerful mood, duelling with clipped percussive samples and the occasional entrance of Bristolian Dubstep jabs and a half-heard vocal in the second half of the track. In the shorter closer Pensive Stare Duct shows a similarly keen eye for atmosphere, with an intensely deep bass sequence underpinning bright synths and clattering yet precise beats. Apparently Harris spends his time teaching others to craft Electronic beats and music, and this experience is on display throughout Circles; a gorgeous collection of tight, restrained and masterful tunes that will keep you coming back again and again.