Tom Trago - The Light Fantastic

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  • Even by the standards of a nation that's always punched well above its weight with dance music, the Dutch house scene is currently enjoying a patch so purple it's almost luminescent. When Rush Hour took home RA's Label Of The Year back in 2010, it was still doing a solid trade in Detroit reissues which, while laudable, seemed indicative of a scene that was a little too outward-looking. A year later came Tom Trago's second album, Iris, a long-player that featured house legends like Romanthony and Tyrée Cooper, but on which the Amsterdam native's personality was subsumed by his big name collaborators. Two years later, both Trago and the label he's called home since his first EP have a decidedly more local perspective. This year Rush Hour's standout releases have come not from Rick Wilhite and Virgo Four but San Proper, Awanto 3 and Xosar (who, though Californian by birth, now lives in The Hague). In an interview recently, Trago said it feels like "something's really kicking on" among producers in The Netherlands. His third album, The Light Fantastic, feels like the work of a producer far more confident in both his own abilities and the state of Dutch dance music. The Light Fantastic is, in many ways, a record in two halves. The opening salvo sees Trago in a subdued mood. Vocals, which he's previously elevated to starring roles, are almost entirely exorcised, and when they do appear they feel secondary to lush synths that sweep and sparkle over laser-focused percussion. "True Friends" and "For The Children" shiver with disembodied voices and juddering bass, while "Down Under" and "Cosmic Blacksmith" are grainy electro cuts, their synths ringing out metallically beneath spitting cymbals. The lounge jazz sample that opens "The Elite" marks a pretty hard right turn. It's a bumping house jam that compresses a funk sample into a single stab, occasionally giving it space to unfurl before slamming the limits back on. This is the album's most grin-inducing moment, although "The Wrong Right," with its euphoric piano chords, and "Two Together," which destroys fragments of old disco, are both peak-time cuts that should have DJs rubbing their hands. It's impressive that an album that dabbles in so many genres still feels cohesive, even if there are some hefty shifts in pace and tone. This is down to an overriding atmosphere more than anything else. Where Iris felt overworked, The Light Fantastic revels in what Trago's described as "naivety"—tracks that capture dance floor moments rather than seeking something deeper. There's no ambient track—a mandatory and largely pointless inclusion on most dance albums—and even the closer, while not exactly euphoric, is shot through with gritty funk. The Light Fantastic is an album that wears its influences proudly, but fashions them into undeniably Dutch forms. The Netherlands' house scene is on the rise, and Tom Trago is leading the charge.
  • Tracklist
      01. The Light Fantastic 02. True Friends 03. For The Children 04. Down Under 05. Down Under 06. Cosmic Blacksmith 07. The Elite 08. Two Together 09. The Right Wrong 10. I Still Desire