Locked Groove (aka Belgian producer Tim Van de Meutter) has given himself an apt name. Often his music sounds like a series of final musical phrases playing over and over, until someone comes along and takes the needle off the record. And considering that repetition is a main ingredient in dance/house music, all would seem well. The downside is, though, that locked grooves on records tend to indicate that something is potentially infinite, and, in the end, we all have limited attention spans. I mention this because Meutter’s repeated sounds and loops are the kind of things you might imagine to be stuck at the absolute end of a record, bringing a collection of songs to a close. And while that may make for intriguing sounding ambient music, or a relaxed take on the typically banging dance genre, it doesn’t bode well for the actual content on the Different Paths EP.
The main problem is the sense of ebb and flow: there isn’t much of it here. On the title track, Meutter builds his layers carefully from an initial fuzzy beat, which follows with a hiccupping rhythm, and then adds various bleeps and effects, but at a point it just blends into another background beat. The other two tracks are just as guilty, struggling to make any distinct marks while on their journey through their runtimes. Consequently, Different Paths is much too easy to ignore, even when you’re playing it loud and/or on headphones.
This would all be fine if Meutter seemed like he was setting out to find that in between space between ambient and dance music, exploring how our attentions can wander, and so forth. But instead he’s set on making “no-nonsense, big-room club tracks”, which I struggle to imagine these as (though, I do concede, I rarely am in the clubs these – or any – days). The bass is there, and it rumbles suitably, but there’s not enough to entice a listener – or their attention span – to want to stick around. “Structure” seems intent on getting by with its tempo alone, but an unexciting flurry of snares does little to salvage an undeniably bare track. “Back To 91” is the only cut here that feel like it has any personality behind it, and that’s only because of the distant rave whistles, which makes for a nice ode to the dancefloors of twenty years ago (much like the title suggests). The track also tops the others here in that it feels like it is moving along that bit more organically, with low drones of noise, and warbling synths, creating that much needed sense of actually have gone somewhere once the track comes to a close.
Unlike your typical piece of wax revolving around over and over and caught in a final loop, there’s little desire for Meutter to dabble in the crackling and grainy effects you usually associate with vinyl; Different Paths sounds impressionably sleek – if not aspiringly edgy – but this wears off after a couple of listens, and you realise there’s not a lot here to hook onto. That said, it’s a little apt then (and charming too, I suppose) that the final noises you hear on the EP is actually the sound of a record’s locked groove kicking in (which turns out to be the EP’s most interesting sonic detail); but it’s just the sound of some quiet, fizzy static, with no music. Unsurprisingly it’s vacant of any hook.