Baronhawk Poitier - Temperado Tornado EP (Honey Soundsystem, 2020)
If boundless expressionism, a superb diversity in sound, and a joyous celebration of being is up your street, then this utterly sublime debut EP from Poitier is surely going to get the blood pumping and the heart burning.
Sometimes EPs convey a singular mood, a snapshot into an artist's feelings at the time which reflects their moods and contexts, a small window within a journey that becomes quickly populated with smaller narratives that pile up into a compelling read. EPs often operate in this way, their shortened nature allowing for the capturing of a moment or a place in time, less in depth than LPs but more razor focused, or perhaps providing a space for tracks that do not fit into a traditional long player for an artist who wishes to diversify their sonics. However, on occasion you come across an EP that feels like an LP, such is the level of experimentation and range of audial features and styles, you feel that each track on it could fit into multiple sets or living rooms at an instant, such is its immediacy in appeal and touch. Its remarkable that this kind of notion is even present in 4 trackers, but for some producers its a time to really hone in on their craft, to pin point the important crossroads and place that inspire them, and in many point to the future of what we might come to expect when loosing ourselves in future releases. When artists release these kinds of EPs, it just confirms its importance as a medium, and as a source of inspiration for those who look to making their own music, in that EPs can be a stepping stone to greater things, to bolder directions and bigger leaps than first thought possible. When approached in a certain manner, dance music has the power to be wonderfully diverse, to touch upon many facets that pop up across the board, with its context when played behind the decks seemingly endless and its character lending itself to many more places, there's so many avenues to explore and turn to when considering the next phase of one's sound. Building upon surrounding energies, prevailing emotions and intrinsic passions, there is much that can inspire large leaps forward, and even though we see less seismic jumps beyond into new territories than before, we are still subject to absolute excellence on occasion when the stars align in our environment and the imagination is in full flow within the artist's mind. The art of the EP is alive and well and truly kicking onwards and upwards, helping very much to capture that essence and feel which runs through so much of our own experiences and memories, doing much to transport us back or forward in time, to a future past or present that fills us with joy and emotion. It fuels our desires, our imaginations and our curiosities, helping us to focus in and engage with our needs to move and immerse ourselves in the dance whilst also feeling compelled to elevate to new heights in terms of sonic and musical understanding. Who knows how far we can go into these new realms, but with the help of an ultra diverse extended player, its a notion that remains very much within reach.
To establish and collate all these kinds of facets onto a debut record is incredibly impressive, and that is just what D.C based producer, DJ and freestyle dancer Baronhawk Poitier achieved with flying colours. One of the founders of the TNX queer warehouse night series, Poitier also has helped organise the Urban Artistry dance battle events, both of which has seen his status cemented as both an excellent dj and a bona fide dance icon in the city, where both sets of skills are on full display for all to see. His musical style is a melting pot of sound, one that remains rooted in proto disco, house and the varying club styles of the 90s, and having been an understudy to Baltimore Club legend Karizma you can feel his influence very much with Poitier's productions, where a wide variety of powerful beats underpin a heft dosage of melodic euphoria that carry the crowd away to cloud 9 every single time. Having dabbled in production for some time, Poitier released a series of edits that became firm favourites at the TNX nights and beyond, including 'Vegvísir' and 'Mvula', which introduced us to Poitier's signature drumming patterns, a style which is very much underpinned in his excellent mixes which remain locked in within the percussive structures that pulsate from below. Its the blend of high octane melodies, intoxicating vocal snippets and pulsating rhythms that have made Poitier such a fixture in the US queer underground, and after all his vibe setting in the club and his other creative endeavours, we were blessed earlier in 2020 with his debut EP, 'Temperado Tornado', which comes via the excellent San Fran based Honey Soundsystem. We talked about how EPs can be such an opportunity for artists to divulge and explore differing facets of their sound, and yet even without a discography to compare to Poitier has released a collection of songs that act as if he has been realising music his whole life. Such is the polish of the production, the diversity in groove, melody and tone, you undertake not just one but four journeys within this absolute gem, with each track providing a differing vibe for a differing time, all acting as chapter breaks within a beautifully flowing narrative that is an imagined dj set. You have the infectious house grooves, the skipping pulsating bass lines, the broken yet seamless rhythmic expressions, and the odd acid line to boot, its simply an outstanding record, and one that will provide you with endless listening pleasure for months on end. It remains for us one of this year's stand out debut releases, one that stands head and shoulders with many other records that represent new instalments in long discographies, a record that harks back to the club and all its energies, guided by the hand of Poitier who so confidently navigates us through the sonic beauty. So, without further delay, lets dive head first into this treasure chest of brilliance....
Up first comes the title track, which begins simply with the kicks but suddenly blossoms into life with a rich top layer of rhythmical features. The congas and rolling toms and snares add an unreal level of vitality to proceedings, with our first melodic feature coming in the form of the fast paced horn section that slides across our screens in a glance, allowing us to engage with it for a moment before we immerse ourselves right back into the percussive excellence that resides underneath. The horn line appears one more time, and with that passing we experience a pause before rolling right back into the rhythmic excellence, this time with the melodic features sticking around for the duration as the longing synth line leads the way on top with a real mission in mind, as little touches are added here and there in the form of the rolling guitar lick that pans across the screen, with the horns never far away from the picture, as their placement often signals shifts in tempo density. The track filters between differing melodic structures, providing snapshots of keys and horns that amplify the breakneck speed of the cut, with the varying elements all taking a moment to move in and out of the spotlight, but the core direction of the track always remains the same - front and left, to the core of the dance. The track then takes its biggest intake of breathe yet, to revel in the soft twinkling chord lines that occupy the mid section of the track, but the drums are never far away, with this section of the track becoming a lot more bassy in its delivery and tone. One final breath is made, as we move into the final climax of the track, with the drums and horns working in tandem to keep the blood flowing, as the track looks to play itself out into the mists of the night, soundtracking the rhythms that bind us all to our every day activities. What an opener. Up next comes 'Phakie Phatty', and this one begins in much more subdued waters. The shuffling muzzled drumming sounds set the tone of things to come, as the lone cymbal indicates to a deep swelling bass chord to emerge, which is quickly followed by the beautiful cascade of keys and then the meatiest drumming pattern you are sure to hear all year. The tonal flourishes that occur on top of the drums are simply exquisite, flowing over the whole scope of the track so that every element gets to feel its warm embrace, and before long we are joined by the bass line, that takes into account all that exists around it. The end result is a density unlike no other, one that skips to the beat and accounts for the spaces that persist between, with the track then taking the time to slow things down to a mere walk for a moment as the drums kick away and we are left with the swirling arpeggio. We pause, reflect, take it all in, and at a moments notice we are whisked away by the snare, so impeccably placed and pulled off as to move right back into the rhythmic tendencies of it all, as the snares push through the underbelly of the track at just the right moments in order to keep the momentum truly alive and kicking. We become locked right into every single passing second, engrossed by the laying out of sound and sonics that arrive right into our consciousness, moved both by the enigmatic melodic display and by the hefty rhythmic structure that lays the foundation for success. What a track.
Up next comes 'Lowside Heights', and once more the intro remains soft and whimsical, as we await with baited breath what might arrive next. The light shakers remain at the forefront, before the kicks arrive in all their finery, crafting a percussive sub base that leads directly into the introduction of the gorgeous chordal line and delicate key flourishes, the two trading places at the forefront of our attention, as the vocal line of 'yo' calls out across the tundra of bliss. This vocal sample signals a movement into a new structure, one where the drums are stripped away and the chordal line is replaced on the right hand side by a new tone, one that quickly aligns itself with the original melodic sequences with ease. The vocal line keeps cropping up, and we know thats when change is afoot, and we see it once more as the acid line calls out to us from afar, a blinkering light that simmers across the water as voices touch our hands and remind us to open our eyes and experience it all. The track moves with such grace between its differing structures, easily weaving between differing densities and tonal arrangements with a positive swagger and clear mindset. it feels like a narrative that unwinds with each passing breath, giving us all the time in the world to think back and look forward, with an excitement of what might transpire as a result of the next shift in melodic momentum. Truly outstanding. Finally, to wrap up proceedings on this record, we have the final experience, 'Gasp & Grasp'. The drums kick things off in techno territories, as the hard hitting kick moves into the mid section as a deep set bass line keeps things afloat underneath, as all manner of percussive features dip and weave around the pulse which keeps the blood flowing, and that isn't taking into account the swelling chords that emerge over the tops of the skyline. The overall picture is one of lush tones and deep set rhythms, with the chords on top filling in the spaces between the drums with ease, even when they are not present, as the drumming sequence becomes more and more dense with each passing second. The drums suddenly become more regular in relation to the kicks, and with this the track flourishes into its next phase, as the high octane cymbals emerge as the leading light and the melodic complexity on top reaches new heights, as delicate full bodied keys worm their way around the right hand side of the spectum. The cut takes a moment to move through a stripped back phase and through into a breakdown of sorts, before cutting loose one final time for us to see the full blown power of the kicks. Its utterly mesmerising, and just one final display of the production skills that Poitier processes, a flair and imagination deeply rooted in the dance that has birthed a sound like no other heard this year. A statement has truly been made on this record.
We emerge from listening to this record with a renewed feeling of bliss in our hearts, and an even bigger urge to loose ourselves in the euphoria of it all. What Poitier has conjured up here represents very much the sounds of a new audial future, one where the sonics reach out from all ends and boundaries of the track to give over to us a sound deeply rooted in experience and context but also reaching out and touching any dancefloor it cares to grace. It feels as if Poitier has involved everything into his sound, from the djing to the art direction to the free style dancing, it all feels represented and reflected in the music, a style that will define many dances to come with its breezy rhythmic power. But its also a sound filled with intrigue, transitions that take the breath away and require us to repeatably pause and re-listen in order to get to know all that exists within. For a debut record, its just exceptional, and for us has to be one of the best of the year, without a shadow of a doubt.
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