- Since Estroe began to create her own tracks back in 2003, the Dutch DJ and producer has established herself as yet another in an ever-growing list of female producers—in a line here extending specifically to figures like Misstress Barbara and MIA—whose work feels especially tender and evocative, even when tailored for the floor. Often folding the cushy, slowly-evolving lines of melody and a luxurious sense of space and tempo of classic Detroit sounds into the headier, deeper elements of modern techno, Estroe's productions are especially polychromatic and wide-sprung. No surprise then that for her debut album, Estroe turned to Connaisseur Recordings. As home to some of dance music's most consistently colorful and lushly psychedelic offerings, the Frankfurt imprint has been among Estroe's central release homes the last few years, including appearances on both of its Grand Cru compilations.
The resulting full-length, Elemental Assets, was produced over more than an entire year, allowing Estroe to develop segue pieces to round out its few clamorous, floor-oriented designs. Defined by Estroe herself in an interview with RA as "a very personal reflection of my moods and certain events in my life," this extended gestation is one of the album's most commendable assets; you can hear the how fluidly and carefully it was arranged for leisure. Only the immersive, melodic swath of 2007's "Driven" has actually appeared before, and perhaps tellingly, that's also the record's deepest, most demented turn. For the most part, Elemental Assets seems pitched to the home-listeners, for those in preparation mode, or simply those looking for a soft night at home. Those seeking the dense night-rushes of "Driven," or the flush, almost trancey hedonism for which Connaisseur fans typically turn to the label may be surprised by its downy nature.
From the lush, swirling downtempo of "Late Night Thinking" to the pink-dawn synthetic strings and bumpy electro of the beautiful "Does It Ring a Bell," the record's concerned more with the climb than the summit. Bookended by two ambient pieces—"Intro"'s whispery tones and the slow water-drip atmospheres and springtime calm of closer "Margie Hendrika"—Elemental Assets muses more than it moves. "Inspirited Away" is a lengthy gaze, a long look around, with dim, distant synth melodies adrift in a steady four-four thump, while the rushes of wind and fluorescent tonal play of "Updraft" find Estroe raise our heart-rates briefly in one of the album's few potential floor pleasures.
But Estroe isn't completely on her own for her first full-length outing. She's called in a couple of friends to give her navel-gazing a little reprieve. Famed electro vamper Miss Kittin drops in for the slow, strutty "Le Flaneur"; her voice sang-froid, daring and teasing, distant against more of Estroe's horizontal strings and the track's mannered house foundations. Samantha Leigh-Brow—of throwback outfit The Frank Pop Ensemble—accentuates "High Maintenance"'s aerial hover and sleek arpeggiated synth with a vocal just as full of wanderlust as the track beneath, a role far more classical here than Miss Kittin's. But, as I said, these moments are merely transitional for Elemental Assets. Ultimately, how much you return to the album will depend on how wistful you're feeling, how willing to indulge in Estroe's patently pretty brand of emotive daytripping.
02. Late Night Thinking
03. Passionate Timidity
04. Does It Ring A Bell
05. Le Flaneur feat. Miss Kittin
06. My Challenge
07. Flirtatious Concubine
08. High Maintenance feat. Sam Leigh-Brown
09. Inspirited Away
12. Margje Hendrika