- The Workshop boss's first LP in 17 years is a spooky house thriller.
- Around 41 minutes into Lowtec's mixtape Sketches, released last year on the Acid Test sub-label Avenue 66, the jangle of "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" by Gil Scott-Heron fades into a recording, in French, of a friendly exchange between a man and a woman. There's barely enough time to catch the gist before a wicked house groove, murky and tunnelling, wades in, stopping the conversation dead. This track, like several Lowtec bits in the mix, was unreleased and unfinished at the time. Fans may have wondered if it would ever come out. Now, eight months later, it reappears fully formed on the excellent Light Surfing, a sort of follow-up to Sketches and Lowtec's first solo album since 2002.
Light Surfing came about by chance. Oliver Bristow, who runs Avenue 66, initially planned to follow the mixtape with a 12-inch, but, realising he liked too many tracks, decided to release everything Lowtec, real name Jens Kuhn, had sent him. The end product is an eight-track album combining music from Sketches with excerpts from Kuhn's live show. To make it flow, Kuhn said he "enriched" the live excerpts with "some elements from the Sketches session." He added: "In the end I thought, all fits well together, why not an LP? The record itself decided to be an album."
The tracks do fit well together. In terms of style, the LP pulls together house cuts with beatless works, all of them shrouded in a sinister fog. The third track, "Light Surfing (Part A)," a chilling synth jam first heard on Sketches, is the record's nucleus—its leaden, horror-movie pads and keys seep into the cracks of a few other tracks. On "Hotel D Europe," a track from Kuhn's live set, "Light Surfing (Part A)" hovers in the background like a spectre. But on "Light Surfing (Part B)," perhaps the album's standout, it forms the bedrock. Shuffling snares and polygraph-style screeches are added to eerie and dazzling effect.
Bright and cloudless moments are hard to come by on Light Surfing, though three club tracks offer respite from the haze. "Vintage Internet," the bomb that interrupted the French couple on Sketches, cuts through the murk with a crisp, near-flawless groove. The drums on "Interna" are livelier and more skittish, its gleaming synths and gently billowing pads almost uplifting. "Burnt Toast," a long, slow, smoky roller in the STL mould, sounds at first like a trudge through sticky mud, until chopped-up soul vocals and loud cymbal crashes make it warm and buoyant. It's as if Kuhn, knowing that you've spent most of the album looking over your shoulder, is finally inviting you to relax and enjoy the ride.
01. Hotel D Europe
02. Boy With The Broken Glasses
03. Light Surfing (Part A)
04. Light Surfing (Part B)
05. Vintage Internet
08. Burnt Toast