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Castel - Estrel (Echovolt Records, 2019)

A sublime collection of sun drenched IDM goodness finds a new home within the Echovolt Family.

Echovolt Records always looks to the sunnier side in life. Exploring the reaches of sunsets, the boundaries of the rays of light, the music is as uplifting as it is deep and multi stemmed. The label breathes good electronica, exploring many facets and genres through a lens of the exploration of how notes and chords make you feel. With excellent releases from the likes of Harvey Sutherland, Legowelt, Priori, and Simocino, the label has produced some astounding and forward thinking EPs, with this readers particular favourites being ESB's 2018 release 'New Era Housing Project', and Earth Trax/Newborn Jr's masterful 'Bailando / Aquamarine' single from 2017. A strong vibe and consistency flows through all these releases, only reinforced with the new music and the beautiful narrative that sings from it.

Castel is the latest artist to be added to the family, via a reissue/compilation of sorts of a previous release, plus unreleased material. 'Estrel' in many ways feels a bit ahead of its time; whilst dripping in the IDM richness of the 1990s, it has a melodic element that far reaches beyond this period. Many a contemporary producer has looked into exploring these elements, and this record feels so perfect to release right now. The tracks embrace this sort of warm void, where the keys and drums simmer, and the songs provide this sort of harmonic excellence that is unrivalled. The listener is very much wrapped in this world filled with layered intensity, but never overpowering, only guiding. The intelligence in application is also so strong, with the peaks and dips that flow throughout the release such a delight to the ears.

We start things off with the title track, that gives us all the flavours of what is to come next. It begins with a squelching acid line, that feels timid and restrained, only for its effect to be released later. A slowed and swaying beat comes in, as soft pads fill the middle ground between the riddims and the squelch. Then the melody kicks up a notch, as a beautiful key line glides into play, as the cymbals come up a notch. Like a waterfall, the flow of energy that exudes from the keys is marvellous, layered and textured, full of life and vibrancy. Stellar, stellar stuff. Up next we have 'Me and You'. The pads at the intro feel like they should have vocals to accompany them, but the synths do all the singing for us. They lighting breathe and gently float, the breeze on the porch as the sun sets on the city. The light drum work feels very akin to the work of D.K, this delicate complexity that does so much to elevate the track. it gives the track a sense of a whole world being located within it, as the chords tap into our emotions. The drums tap into our imagination, filling the sounds with characters and actions. It goes through these wonderful moments of the low, the urgency toned way down, before bringing all the drum elements back in to have us open our eyes once again. damn! Next we have 'Safer Somewhere', that takes the ingredients from the previous track and adds a hell of a lot of depth and dynamism to it. The drums played a key part there, and now every snare, hi hat and tom feels as if extra emphasis has been placed on each individual sound. We feel each movement, every rhythm, as the beat pulsates with the erratic hi hats. The swirling pads provide a compelling backstory, with the energy from both creating a powerful narrative. Melodies and beats combine to create perhaps the most in depth tune of the EP so far, but that is highly debatable, its all fantastic!

'Latch' follows up, and this one has expansive written all over it. Synth lines take centre stage, an arpeggio line that dips and serves on top of deep pads and light cymbal work. This continues on for a good while, as the immersiveness steps up a notch, the listener compelling to listen more. The line drops away as a swirling series of pads and 90s IDMs noises permeate through. Then holy god jesus, the track breaks down, and the beat slips inside our mind. The transitions are smooth as hell, but allowing just the right amount of contrast, as we are properly taken away now. That moment of pureness and complexity is one of IDM's great strengths, and Castel executes it to perfection. As it winds down, we find the arpeggio drift back from its journey to take centre stage once again. To finish off proceedings, we have '16-11-1998', and boy does this sound special. This one has all the feelings of the past, and the future combined, with layered pads and little lines thrown in for good measure. The combo of reverbed drums and the dipping diving synths is so inspired, as if the song is slowly rotating around your head, giving insight and feels in equal measure. Hmmmmm.

This release feels so invigorating, fresh and bold. It may have not received the love it should have when it was originally released, but i'll be damned if it doesn't this time round. A hypnotic and delicate blend of rhythm and emotion, this has all the greatness of IDM and then some, each track crafted and composed to guide us through its complex in-depth world. We feel through the pads, we move through the drums, every scene created giving us new life. What a release.

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