Hugo Massien's No Return presents two divisive club trends at once: deep tech, a sound for which Massien is a poster boy, and the hazy, tongue-in-cheek brand of house championed by E-Beamz, the label that gave us DJ Boring's YouTube hit, "Winona." Heads tend to roll their eyes at both, dismissing them either as bland pastiches of recent sounds (as the very name "deep tech" might seem to imply), or just for just being slightly ridiculous. (With a roster includes DJ Longdick, DJ Seinfeld and DJ Relationship Goals, E-Beamz can seem like a stoner giggling at his own jokes.) And yet, to some extent, both have proven their critics wrong. Taste-making powerhouse XL Recordings signed Massien for an EP that they said "harnessed the spirit" of their early rave days, while E-Beamz has become one of the hottest labels going, with a sound that, whatever you think of it, has obviously struck a chord.
Having said all that, No Return is unlikely to win over many skeptics. Like Ross From Friends' recent one on Lobster Theremin, Massien's debut on E-Beamz is fun in parts, but far from fresh. The production chops are definitely there, as is the sense of groove—"Vital Signs" makes it hard not to dance in your chair, let alone in a club. But you may find yourself groaning at the hooks, each of which echoes something done better in the past few years. As one track after the other trots out swollen basslines, frosty atmospheres and scuffed up drums, Joy Orbison and Boddika are the elephants in the room, though they wouldn't have chosen the overwrought R&B sample on the title track. "Swerve 2" is fine in a way—again, I'll admit to chair-dancing—but at the same time so unremarkable it almost defies comment. These tracks will work as party fodder, but to be more than that they'd need to bring at least an inkling of something that's theirs and theirs alone—something you could say of E-Beamz as well.