Rob Kemp showed up late last decade as Brackles with a number of 12″s and collaborations with Shortstuff, fellow Englishman and co-head of Nottingham-based Blunted Robots. Kemp pedaled a precise, primary-colored mixture of house, garage, and funky in a kind of spit-shined take on a classic London sound. He bounced around top-shelf labels like Apple Pipe, Planet Mu, and Brainmath before landing on Rinse Recordings in 2011 with two excellent 12″s in the run up to his first proper full-length. Released as Rinse Presents: Brackles, the record is an uncontaminated shot of oxygen with its skeletal arrangements, gritted snare programming, and spartan pop inclinations.
Brackles doesn’t have any intention of avoiding classic UK bass structures, and instead focuses on detailed groundwork and confident programming, grasping at an infectious forward momentum and airy confidence. Most of the record hinges on busy, snare-heavy patterns and squashed, melodic dubstep synths, but the English producer assembles a diverse cast of female vocalists and finds himself either building tracks in service to vocal melody or ping-ponging between production flourishes and vocal centerpieces. There’s a distinctly house undertone that’s more deep-seated than the occasional 4/4 that’ll split a track. The sequencing, landing on vocal driven affairs before taking off into more instrumental territories, is reminiscent of house LPs and mixes of two decades earlier, and the overall energy is reminiscent of Katy B’s On A Mission from last year, another record that straddled traditional London tones and 90s house in service of a more pop-oritented affair.
The first trio of tracks on Brackles is a pretty accurate vertical slice of the whole record. “Never Coming Down” is all jointed, combative snare claps and shivering, percussive synth washes before vocalist Lily McKenzie takes the reigns and some chilled electro tones breathe toward the middle, coating the track in an icy sheen. The lazy tendril of a bass synth at the song’s bottom just kind of seeps in and out of life beneath the sporadic percussion. “I Can’t Wait” uses its vocals more texturally, exercising build and release dynamics near the track’s end as the syncopated catchy-as-hell bass groove steps around the frenetic stew of drum hits. “Lighthouse” ditches vocals altogether, settling around a 4/4 drive with jagged, cut-off clips of snares. The track moves, weighed down with plump, sensuous synth grooves before giving way to spacious washes of tropical, sunset tones.
Elsewhere, you get bangers like “Walking Out,” which fills its swaying negative space with melodic percussion and minimal, foamy synth tones, and “Earphone Memories” with its glassy percussion intricacies and ascending web of higher-plane arpeggios. There’s also other vocal-centric highlights like “Go Head” with its acidic keys and off-center rhythms. Most of all though, Brackles is a study in drum programming. The producer leans toward crisp, impactful snares arranged into bullet-riddled patterns, but he remains constant in the details – hi-hats, hand drums, and percussive clicks choking every bar of each song in constantly morphing patterns, playing a subtle game of add and subtract. Rinse Presents: Brackles is one of the strongest and most immediate full-length UK bass debuts in some time and one that exceeds the promise of a young producer’s previous potential.
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