Various Artists - Uncanny Valley 001

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  • The first release from Dresden's Uncanny Valley label is a showcase of four local talents of varying renown—Break SL and Jacob Korn are the best known, Cuthead and Thomas Frohlich less so—who all bring their own take on moody, downbeat house. With all four cuts running between 110 and 120 BPM, heavy on acoustic samples and classic drum machines, it's a familiar sound in contemporary house, but all four cuts are really rather excellent. For all the similarity in vibe, each track has its own signature. Frolich's is the most upbeat, pushed forward by a hot drum skip and phased chords recalling vintage Carl Craig; the only thing holding it back is an extended voiceover in the breakdown that borrows a little too nakedly from Moodymann. (The scene is flooded with these kinds of passages lately, and the generic approach to cut-and-pasted "soul" only cheapens the track.) Far from the springy, synth-heavy work of his singles for Dolly and Left of the Dial, Jacob Korn's "Slamduck" moves like it's walking underwater, with murky chords pulsing beneath splashes of percussion and short snippets of muted horns. The form is familiar, but the sound of the thing—from the chest-massaging bass to the unexpectedly cheery, jazzy touches—is totally captivating. Clearly, Korn isn't about to get bogged down in any one style. Cuthead's "Acceptable Mustache Style" has not only the EP's best title but also perhaps its most forceful cut, despite the 116 or so BPM. It wouldn't sound out of place on Smallville or MCDE, built as it is around minor-key piano chords, filtered and delayed, and a spare but effective bassline. Gently jacking drum programming makes it seem faster than it is, and a touch of wildpitch strings helps ignite the slow-burning coals at its climax. Philpot's Break SL turns in the most downtempo track here, a lumbering 110-BPM bruiser that shuffles like a boxer in his final round—stars in his eyes and a pit in his stomach. Staccato cowbells cut against low, woozy chords, while clean, dry drum machines march determinedly forward. It's a great way to round out the EP, putting a whole new spin on familiar tropes.
  • Tracklist
      01. Thomas Frohlich - Get Us 02. Jacob Korn - Slamduck 03. Cuthead - Unacceptable Moustache Style 04. Break SL - Low Light