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Supreme Cuts

Whispers In The Dark

[Dovecote Records; 2012]

By ; August 13, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

You’d be forgiven for lumping Supreme Cuts in with what certain parts of the internet like to call “post-dubstep.” The broad catchall phrase for any electronic music with soggy vocal samples and splintered snare sounds isn’t completely off base either. Chicago duo Mike Perry and Austin Kjeultes work from a seemingly familiar place, and based on their only prior release, an EP by the name of Trouble, it’s a place they’ve had to work out of before finding anything in the way of distinction. But familiar by no means means bad. Supreme Cuts’ debut LP, Whispers In The Dark, might touch on any number of trending introverted, UK bass-informed electro aesthetics, but structurally it has more in common with NinjaTune and Ghostly Intl. downtempo and progressive high concept beat narratives by dudes like Clams Casino and Blue Sky Black Death.

Supreme Cuts favors emotion and build rather than over-specific production tendencies. It’s an album full of singular, memorable song-writing moments. It offers abridged intros at the beginning of both sides of the record as well as an intermission, and its closing track is an epic eight-minute grand finale. It’s the kind of record that’s concerned with constructing a living, breathing journey, which gives the scattering of vocal samples, film snippets, and panoramic synthesizers some dimension and life where these elements might have otherwise stagnated on the page.

It also helps that Supreme Cuts have honed their production chops into something truly lithe and restrained. But the tracks on Whispers In The Dark/em> are still unendingly rich and dynamic, wavering in and out of arpeggiated ambience one minute, building toward radiating, hyperviolet supernovas the next. On “Lessons Of Darkness (Apology),” a smattering of handclaps, tribal sonics, and flighty, glimmering synths, come together in lapping waves around a roiling center instead of preceding linearly. This is an album, like Shlohmo’s Bad Vibes or Balam Acab’s Wander / Wonder, that sketches a search for some kind of personal actualization. Supreme Cuts are smart in keeping answers few and far between, but on a track like “(Youngster Gone Off That) Sherm”–which heaps on layer after layer around a bullheaded rhythm before pausing to calmly inhale, reeling things back in and squeezing some real beauty out of what’s already there–the climax feels wholly revelatory.

It’s not hard to imagine these tracks fading from memory if they were arranged only slightly different, but Perry and Kjeultes prop up their vocal samples and instrumental flourishes in grand centerpiece fashion. It doesn’t hurt that the melodies are sticky as hell and there are enough peaks and valleys over the course of three minutes to fill a whole record. “Belly” plays coy with its delicious hook for almost the whole cut before laying it bare atop a jagged-boned hip-hop groove and quasar synth pulse. “18th”‘s swaggering “uhh” vocal announcement is almost enough on its own to make an impression–never mind the spindly music-box textures and massive clattering finger snaps. The album’s sequencing also plays a big part in how smoothly the whole thing goes down. You get a spastic track like “EQ,” with its start-stop rhythm and frequent soft-loud energy bursts, which proceeds the dulcet water-drip, starlight-bath of “Ciroc Waterfalls.” “Intermission” is an abbreviated version of The Caretaker’s decaying piano waltz and then we’re onto the creamy back half of the album.

The record’s title track is its one true audacious marvel. Its beginnings are small and patient, a blurry piano sample oozing around some tropical arpeggios. It morphs into a headlong rush down a nebulous highway, subsiding into runny, bruised ambient colors before taking everything with it in a steady upward climb toward some heavenly zenith.  Whispers In The Dark seems destined to fly under the radar. Its strengths are in the how, not the what, which isn’t always the most appealing thing in a progress-hungry musical climate. But it’s an album that’s ripe to make a personal splash with the right listeners. It’s exceedingly confident with what it does and it spins a very individual and emotional tale that’s more than worth investing in.


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