- Deep space club steppers with a mystical touch.
- The debut release from Toronto producers Ciel and Dan Only, AKA Cloudsteppers, is a study in contrasts. Packed with percussive missiles and whiplash-inducing breaks, its four tracks traverse the spectrum of muscular jungle, '90s UK tech house and minimal garage with knife-like focus and taut grooves. Despite the heavy drum pressure, these punchy sounds are coated with a gloss of atmospheric synths and flighty effects, giving them a soft, celestial and trippy feel. This kind of starry-eyed mood is usually found at the very outskirts of dance music, but Cloudsteppers incorporates this ethereal quality throughout. There's plenty of dynamic beats to work you into a sweat, while tinges of IDM, intelligent drum and bass and ambient will have your head in the clouds.
Evocative touches are one of Ciel's signature traits so it's not surprising that propelling house and techno can come off as almost downtempo in her hands. "I hear the word 'dreamy' about my sets and the music I make," she told Resident Advisor back in 2018. "It's something that I carried with me from my days obsessed with shoegaze and ambient music in university. I smoke a lot of weed, and I like music that sounds like you could listen to it while you smoke a lot of weed. I spent most of university lying on my bedroom floor listening to Slowdive, and I try to bring that vibe with me into how I play dance music."
"The Limit" captures this stoner nature: spasmodic jungle, crushing breaks and stuttering noises roll out hard and fast, but the sci-fi synths and a wonky sample of UK physicist Brian Cox discussing the speed of light transform the track from a club cut to a hazy, ruminative number. On the slow-fast "Slinky Bork," the duo overlap tempos so bits of rapt melody, delicate tech house rhythms and breakbeats float around idly in what's actually quite a busy arrangement. "Diva Loops" is a frenetic ride that occasionally stops for breath before picking up the pace again, while "Trigger Happy" is one of the EP's more low-key tracks with its teasing two-step, carefree bleeps and distorted textures.
Hypnotic yet bustling with charged basslines, the music on The Limit is like hearing atoms mingling with one another to create hybrid molecules. It's easy for a record to fall victim to abstractions when so many different parts are uniting under hyperkinetic patterns but this 12-inch manages to achieve both stability and charisma with a jumble of intriguing ideas.
01. The Limit
02. Slinky Bork
03. Diva Loops
04. Trigger Happy