- After a four-year break from the format, Mark Stewart is back with his first album since Metanarrative. Despite being perhaps best known for a series called Warehouse Sessions on Modern Love, Stewart has commonly favoured the tender side of techno. But as January's Second Blood EP showed, the Mancunian's transition to Delsin seems to have sharpened his approach, resulting in what might be Claro Intelecto's most moving and sophisticated work to date.
Reform Club is full of conventional beauty; protracted strings and pads which soar, pulse, float or shimmer on a dub-tinged substrate. Dainty as these melodies are, however, they often feel desolate and wistful. In "Still Here," a forgotten toy seems to pine from the corner of a derelict mansion. The track's dusty piano and unsteady toms inch towards a string-laden mid-section, where the despondency reaches an exquisite peak.
Pre-released cut "Second Blood" is similarly pensive, pairing slow-rotating dub chords with a ponderous low-end. It's novel to hear sorrow built to mild peaks in the same way that so many producers would with euphoria or joy. The beatless "Quiet Life" also does well in this respect, enmeshing plinking piano and fluctuating gossamer pads to form a soft, affecting conclusion to the LP.
Though these tracks all hover round 90 BPM, 120 is the number that best characterises the remainder. "Reformed," the album's opener, skips gracefully along via an emphatic rhythm section and more of those ubiquitous strings. "It's Getting Late" feels totally submerged, but thumps forward anyway, one-off arp hits and nasal bass striking through the depths. "Blind Side" and "Night of the Maniac" are more mysterious, shrouding their sonorous beats with darker wisps of melody.
Reform Club isn't formulaic, by any stretch, but it does feel incredibly unified; a result of Stewart's deliberate-sounding compositions. When new elements appear or something else shifts, the change always seems merited. Chord progressions are more efficient than extravagant. Fans of fellow Delsin signing Conforce will appreciate this meticulous approach. It never lets up, giving Reform Club a rich, intelligent sound which will have you returning to it over and over.
02. Blind Side
03. Still Here
04. It's Getting Late
07. Second Blood
08. Night Of The Maniac
09. Quiet Life