- Will Saul, and almost everything he touches, exudes savoir-faire. When Simple and Aus burst onto the scene in 2003 and 2006 respectively, you immediately knew—from the sounds, the packaging, the placement—that the person behind these labels had a clued-in acuity rare in a label landscape full of false starts, fizzers and half-arsed blahfests. And framed this way, the release of Aus Music... All Night Long was something that anyone with an interest in refined, intricate and subtle minimal/tech/house would have looked forward to with antici…. pation. Then I saw who would be participating: My My, Martyn, Lawrence, Appleblim and Ramadanman, and, of course, Lee Jones, the person whose releases more than any other have shaped the label's sound and its greatness to date.
Trouble is, getting the right people, though necessary, is never sufficient. You have to trust that they've turned in their best material. In this case? Some have, some haven't. Saul has done an admirable job in picking his team: it's a shame that not everyone came through. What characterizes Aus Music... more than anything else is its unevenness: the best material is some of the most interesting stuff released this year so far; the worst is the kind of bland and forgettable minimal tech house the world needs no more of.
But let's dwell on the positive: The crowning glory of this compilation is Appleblim and Ramadanman's "Sou le Sable," a ten minute monster that compresses an EP's worth of ideas into one great, big, long ride. The contrast is as stark: "Sou le Sable" stands out from the pack here as much as Koze's "Zou Zou" did on the last Total compilation. It's not often one track can make you say (almost) that a compilation is essential. The beat programming is just excellent—I imagine both producers listened to some My My, then sat down to out-do them at their own micro-programmed game. Every hit, every snare, every loop is so well programmed, so neatly put together. The intro is intricate percussive house that you could use to bridge between two other more thematically driven tracks (the duo give you about three minutes worth to play with). Then comes the second mood, driven by a blue synth drone and a growing melody. It's a surprise after the intro, but then the track really switches gears, with an arpeggiated bassline that rises, then rises, then rises, buoyed up on some nicely placed granular hiss and the still marvelous drum programming. I could go on (and on): sufficed to say, these two "dubstep" producers have put the house heads on notice with this one. Definitely one of the tracks of the year so far.
There are some other really nice moments here, too: My My's "Going Going Gone" is a slight return to the serpentine complications of their Songs for the Gentle-era work, and Lee Jones presents a nice microhouse percolator track with his usual impeccable sound design and interesting sample choices. Martyn's "Electric Purring," which closes the CD version (but won't be available on vinyl) also nicely showcases his interplay of moody piano, synthscaping and beat science. Pearson Sound's "Indelible" is a good example of the current interplay between house and dubstep. Lawrence's remix of "Aria" (arguably the best track in Lee Jones' impressive catalog for Aus) is bland and inert—Lawrence by numbers: nothing of the original's lithe movement is left. (Lawrence, if you're reading this, you need to start challenging yourself again, you're too talented to keep on turning in complacent stuff like this.) Then there are what sound like the remainders. Inclusions from Sian, Brooks, Shur-I-Kan, Will Saul & Tam Cooper and Roland Appel are all uninspired and uninspiring tracks from producers who've done much better elsewhere—but perhaps the mistake here was to include a track as good as "Sou le Sable."
Aus Music... will be released as a double CD and a series of three EPs. The double CD includes all tracks mentioned, as well as a mix the CD that showcases the label's sound so far. To be honest, you'd have to be a real Aus 'ead to be compelled by it—like a lot of label showcase mixes, there's too much of the same moods and textures, and not enough movement, contrast or surprise (all qualities "Sou le Sable" has in spades). For all these reasons, I can't wholeheartedly recommend the CD, but note well: the second of the EPs contains "Sou le Sable," Martyn's hurried sounding "For Lost Relatives" and Pearson Sound's "Indelible." And that makes it essential.
01. Sideshow feat. Cortney Tidwell - Television (All Night Long Version)
02. Roland Appel - Snow in Springtime
03. Sian - Siamese Cat
04. Shur-I-Kan - Tubular
05. Brooks - IWANCHU
06. Pearson Sound - Indelible
07. Appleblim & Ramadanman - Sous Le Sable
08. Martyn - For Lost Relatives
09. Lee Jones - Aria (Lawrence Remix)
10. My My - Going Going Gone
11. Lee Jones - Lab
12. Will Saul & Tam Cooper - Heartwave
13. Martyn - Electric Purring
CD 2 (Mixed by Will Saul)
01. Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug The Scary (Intro Edit)
02. My My - Butterflies & Zebras
03. Lee Jones - There Comes a Time (Prins Thomas Remix)
04. Sideshow - Philly Soundworks (Lee Jones Remix)
05. Lee Jones - Every Click Matters
06. Lee Jones - Soon (The Mole Remix)
07. Sian - Appletree
08. Lee Jones - The Secret
09. Lee Jones - Aria
10. Will Saul & Lee Jones - Hug the Scary
11. Motorcitysoul - Kazan (Exit Cube)
12. Lee Jones - Safari (Stimming Remix)
13. Sian - Wear Your Scars Like Medals (Roland Appel Remix)
14. Sideshow feat. Paul St. Hilaire - If Alone (Chateau Flight Dub Mix)
15. Motorcitysoul - Space Katzle