- The Mole has always seemed like a strange fit for Wagon Repair, generally eschewing the label's refined techy sound for his own brand of heavily sampled, organic loopiness. In fact, he goes back a long way with the Wagon Repair crew – originally he lived in Vancouver and recorded as The Modern Deep Left Quartet with all three Cobblestone Jazz members. The quartet split when he moved to Montreal with both Danuel Tate and Tyger Dhula, but when a studio theft caused Dhula and Tate to return, The Mole was left out east without any of his former bandmates. Their separation is our gain, it seems, as now we’ve been treated to a full length from Cobblestone Jazz, and now The Mole’s debut artist album, As High As The Sky.
On first listen, one thing that’s apparent is that The Mole (Colin De La Plante to his mother) bloody loves his live disco beats. Whether they’re shuffling, skippy, looped up, or just plain rolling, the sound of live drums is plastered over this record from start to finish. That’s not to say that much of it is particularly retro in essence, the exception being penultimate track ‘Knock Twice’, a Moodymann style looper complete with funk guitar and even a subdued ‘We feel… house!’ call-and-response vocal. I can hear you cynics balking at the thought, but rather than falling into pastiche, it really stands up on its own two feet due to De La Plante’s EQ work and engaging structural composition.
Elsewhere on the record, The Mole combines synthetic and futurist tones with looped live percussion to wondrous effect. Take album opener ‘Still In The Corner’, for example, on which he teases out the hi-hats and funky electronic bassline to let the groove develop fully before unleashing a crazy bending synth line over the top. Think of Audion doing a slo-mo house record and you’re halfway there. From there on in, the record flows beautifully from track to track, each segue as measured and natural as the last.
Things pick up with the spiky bleeps of ‘Alice, You Need Him’, before birdsong announces ‘Hey Girl (I Feel So Good)’, the record’s first clean disco break. Clean, that is, until the divebombing sub-bass oscillations come in and introduce the looped up main section, again subtly EQed by ol’ Moley for maximum impact in the club. If you’ve been going out to decent house and techno nights over the past few months, then you’ll almost certainly have heard the house destroyer that is ‘Baby You’re The One’ already. If you haven’t, then pick up the 12" (already out on Wagon Repair), as it doesn’t feature on the 2xLP release.
As High As The Sky finally makes good on its promise to appease the ‘higher’ members of the population with the final run of tracks. ‘Like The Way’ mixes techy disco-house with Tortoise style kraut-tronics, there’s shimmering synths and a fat bassline on ‘Smiling And Running’, and closer ‘When It Tastes So Good you Deserve It’ seals the deal perfectly. Again, the tempo drops to a loping groove, as twinkly synths fight with the pensive bassline over what the dominant mood of the track is going to be. I’ll leave the album’s ending as a surprise, but take my word when I tell you that it’s guaranteed to raise a smile when you first hear it come out of nowhere.
I really can’t enthuse about this record enough. It’s a diverse house album with quality tunes throughout, and also manages to approach the dance music holy grail: you can actually listen to it start to finish without reaching for the skip button. All in all, it kind of makes you glad that Tyger and Danuel got their studio robbed. Sorry, guys.
02 Still In The Corner
03 Ain’t The Way It’s Supposed To Be
04 Alice, You Need Him
05 Hey Girl (I Feel So Good)
06 Baby You’re The One
07 Gracias A Los Ninos
08 Like The Way
09 Smiling And Running
10 Knock Twice
11 When It Tastes So Good You Deserve It