- The Russian producer sets a new standard for ambient jungle (and beyond).
- The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the fidgety beats and creamy chords of "Flay," the opening track on Hoavi's new album, is ambient jungle, the wistful sound championed by Paradox's alter ego Alaska and classic records on LTJ Bukem's Good Looking label. But just when it seems to slot into that framework, the Russian producer introduces twitchy percussion more associated with footwork, his rhythms shaking and shimmying across an expanse of icy reverb. Combining footwork, jungle and dub techno, Hoavi takes three genres with distinct sonic identities and makes them his own. Invariant is unique because it's peaceful and meditative even at its most blistering.
After "Flay," Invariant slips and slides through a number of different ideas. The footwork-jungle fusion is most literal on "Dver," which backs up a frantic synth lead with patches of footwork jabbing and knotty jungle breaks, the musical equivalent of restless leg syndrome. "Tessera" is the album's most wonderful display of contrasts, as shuddering percussion and arpeggiated synths move across a backdrop of gradually changing pads, like watching the sun set and rise and set again in a fast-motion time lapse.
As Invariant progresses it becomes more restrained and even more fascinating. "Hayabusa" is like jungle without the breaks, as those signature bucking basslines chart a path through otherwise formless ambience. "Sava G" cranks up the dub quotient, with one of the album's most intriguing and emotional sounds: a sustained synth motif that wavers and warbles, a whole different feeling than the futuristic white-marble soundscape of the rest of the LP. It only lasts briefly, but leaves a lasting imprint.
It's that hard-to-place feeling, those glimmers of emotion, that give Invariant its weight, even at its lightest. You don't have to look far to find other producers harvesting this same purple patch between footwork, jungle and dub, and many do it well. But none do it like Hoavi. Just listen to the barely there pitter-patter on "Memoryscope." The rhythms are buried so deep they feel like a faint heartbeat under skin. The clever switch into staggered house on "Streamline"—with one very addictive hat-snare pattern—ends the album as it started: finding new ways to express well-worn sounds.
Brian Foote and Brion Brionson's Peak Oil label doesn't put out a lot of music (this is only their 12th release in almost ten years). But in Hoavi it seems they've found their muse. He pulls together all the strands of the label's catalogue of low-key American electronic music—the dub pulse of Strategy, the post-SND dub techno of Topdown Dialectic, the synth-drenched techno of M. Geddes Gengras's Personable alias—which is all the more impressive given that he has no connection to these artists. Instead on Invariant, you can hear a personal lifetime of dance music as absorbed by a polymath who turns them inside out to create a world where footwork basslines are enveloping, jungle breaks become soothing and slow, and drawn-out synths wrap around you like a weighted blanket. It's heavy stuff, but it's also as fluffy as a cloud.
04. Dyson Garden