- Last year, DJ Masda, the cofounder of Cabaret Recordings, described the desired effect of the label's music to Matt Unicomb as a "hypnotic lock." To most people, hypnosis comes with stagecraft—the swinging watch, the elaborate commands. The Japanese label's music is rarely so showy. The soft piano runs of, say, So Inagawa's "Sensibilia" and the rising organ bubbles of U-More's "The Slope" are leads that don't really lead. Vocals tend to be softly spoken—that's true even of the Drake-sampling "Downtown," where Binh dampens the rapper's voice with volume dips and sudden cut outs. In the deep end of an hours-long session of understated grooves, these slender elements hold an undeniable sway.
The majority of Alien Family's eight tracks embody this gentle persuasion. The compilation spans various types of house, techno and electro, rendered in a luxuriously atmospheric minimalism. Track titles suggest sensitive objects ("Flake," "Remote Circuit") and spaced-out states ("Lost Up There," "Solitary Affair"). But the compilation doesn't rely solely on its hallmarks. Its digital sheen—audible in the bleeps and arps of "Remote Circuit" and "Lost Up There," among others—is brighter than usual. Of the eight tracks on the compilation, one comes from a debut act, S-Audio. And cuts like Evideon's "Game Over" and Evan Baggs's "AZS" continue a recently expressed taste for vigorous bangers.
The title of Alien Family suggests a closely bonded tribe of outsiders, working on the periphery of a scene, but the compilation summons long-cherished dance music keystones. The bass melody and wriggling harmony of TC80's "Flake" might remind you of a Richard D. James cut from Syro or Surfing On Sine Waves. S-Audio's contribution, "Remote Circuit," could be a high-spec update of Steve Poindexter-style Chicago house. So Inagawa's "Solitary Affair," a standout, has undercurrents of viscous dub techno. In each case, seeds of old ideas bloom into cleaner, smoother iterations.
Only on "Wova" does this surface seem too clinical. Its undulating tone swivels in various directions, but it fails to follow any of them with much conviction. The snares and rides have the dryness of a persistent cough. "Lost Up There," another sparse cut, offsets prickly percussion with glossy squiggles, such as the theremin and digital peals that surround U-More's skinny drums. By contrast, some of Alien Family's better tracks are unexpectedly thick-set. "Game Over"'s discordant synths and "AZS"'s swirling organs coil around an unusually assertive thump. The strings and harp of Ekbox's "Watair" are kept afloat by a swollen low-end.
The logo that appears on Cabaret Recordings 12-inches—a variable semi-circle that has resembled a crown, a clock face and a peacock's tail—conveys an aristocratic air. As graceful as Alien Family can be, it also knows when to cut loose. "Game Over" and "AZS" exude a reckless energy. That they sit so naturally among Cabaret standards like "Solitary Affair" speaks to the label's evolving personality.
01. Binh - Wova
02. U-More - Lost Up There
03. Evan Baggs - AZS
04. S-Audio - Remote Circuit
05. Ekbox - Watair
06. TC80 - Flake
07. So Inagawa - Solitary Affair
08. Evideon - Game Over