Willow - Workshop 30

  • The triumphant return of Willow.
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  • Although the lore of Willow's breakthrough track, "Feel Me," has been cast in stone at this point—Move D hears it while passing a tent at Gottwood and convinces Evan Tuell and Lowtec into releasing it on Workshop—it's worth mentioning how incredible that song still sounds. For a sparse, minor key house production with an indecipherable R&B vocal, the track has remarkable staying power (full disclosure: the crunched "I, I, I," refrain still gets stuck in my head once a week). Five years on and the Manchester artist's return to Workshop does not disappoint. Sophie Wilson's magic is on full display on Workshop 30, where she offers four sonorous shades of restrained and minimal house and techno, reinforced with intense bassweight. From our first taste of vinyl hiss and skeletal percussion on slo-mo house opener "Squirrel City," the EP settles into the type of unhurried, sub-heavy groove only Wilson can carve. "Sexuall" sounds like reassembling the jigsaw of a '90s tech house track where just a few of the puzzle pieces are missing. We hear her trademark sub hits on "Phoebe," with the skittering drums and delay on the chords giving it a dub techno meets post-dubstep vibe—think DeepChord circa '99 remixing Mount Kimbie circa '09. "Strawberry Moon" also has a mid-'00s feel to it, tapping into that era's zeitgeist with both a UK garage swing and an Aaliyah sample, but Wilson gives it some 2021 swagger with synth notes ricocheting across the stereo field like neon pinballs. What sets this record apart from the previous releases is that every track is a little clearer (just check the synth lead on "Squirrel City") and slightly less smudgy ("Strawberry Moon" is a proper anthem). On Workshop 30, Wilson does what she does best: taking the ghosts of a variety of strains of dance music—garage, tech house, dub techno—and strips them to their component parts, creating haunted caves of echo and rhythm like only Wilson can. Over the past five years, while stepping away from production, Wilson has charted out a unique path in the clubland imagination. She keeps up a steady, but limited, diet of mixes and tour dates, and her understated approach to both DJing and production has bestowed upon her a cult-like reverence. And that reverence should only grow with this record. By dropping off another pitch-perfect 12-inch at Hard Wax, Wilson further deifies her singular status in the underground.
  • Tracklist
      01. Squirrel City 02. Phoebe 03. Sexuall 04. Strawberry Moon