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D.Tiffany - Cruel Trance (LKR Records, 2020)

Dreaming away to euphoria never felt so good on yet another stunner from the brilliant Canadian producer.

It's always a glorious thing when you can simply expect a certain standard of brilliance from a producer, such is the consistency and boundary pushing feel behind their sound. In many ways, it stems from a confidence in sound and vision, where their signature sound evolved from a place that began in an established way before just making leaps and bounds from that point. When you look back through these kinds of artists discography, you see patterns emerge between the manner that they blend emotive tools with drumming sequences, layered tones with interpretations of genres, and their absolute capture of a certain vibe, taking us to certain environments every single time via the aforementioned factors. It starts to establish bonds and affections between the listener and the music, as the expected becomes the norm, the brilliance never ceases to amaze and delight, our hearts fully aligning with their sound as we drift between sonics and subspaces. It's these kind of artists who begin to become the cornerstones of the electronic music scene, their ideals flowing through those who dedicate themselves to learning more about the hows and whys, enriching the scene with their swerves and flows to create tonal excellence that just hits the right mark in so many ways. Their ability to diversify their sound too becomes yet another marvel, their ability and understanding to pull off multiple takes on varying genres whilst keeping true to their core tenants is always invigorating and remarkable, with the threads between releases beginning to take root. This notion of trying a hand at varying genres developed mostly in the 90s, and its fantastic to see the tradition hasn't left us yet, and it seems to be becoming increasingly relevant in this day and age due to the overly saturated dance music landscape we reside within. More so than ever perhaps, it's important to find your voice and uniqueness amongst it all, and to stand out you have to develop an intelligent method of composition and sound design, with those who pursue something intrinsic to themselves the ones who emerge and stand out amongst the rest. We look to seek out those who will further our adoration and understanding of music, with a view to those artists who not only push their own boundaries of sound but those that push ours, crafting worlds that point a little bit in new directions for us to explore and get to know just that little bit better. Everything seems possible within dance music, and that is an exciting thing to bear in mind, but those who guide us to places which we imagined but hadn't quite gotten there yet, we will be eternally grateful, until the ends of time.

In many ways, Sophie Sweetland has been exploring these avenues of musical excellence for sometime now, with her music coming across as a self contained experience that does much to engage and inspire. The Canadian producer has made numerous waves in the dance music community since the early 2010s, and represents one of the pinnacles of the local scene which has come to the forefront in an international sense significantly in recent years. Aside from being a celebrated producer, Sweetland is also the founder of Planet Euphorique, one of this writer's favourite labels, and the hauntingly brilliant xpq?, which she runs alongside Special Guest DJ.

Primarily releasing music through her D.Tiffany alias, Sweetland has conjured up a deft blend of full bodied soundscapes that swerve around the beats associated with house, techno and breakbeat, but her signature moves often come across in her ethereal melodic touches, with the vibe that comes over so unbelievably pure and knowledgable to the roots of the sound. Her core ideals reveal themselves within each track, and that makes the music something to truly invest in, the character leaping out at you continually, conjuring up moods and tones that remain intrinsic to Sweetland and her musical mantras. The kind of dance music that operates between the lines, able to slot within many contexts with ease and pleasure, treading that fine line between soft and hard, all the while never loosing sight of the bigger picture. Each release weaves and dips around her vision, with a flow from each record that seems to build on the last, with the tunes found within reading like a sonic narrative that contains so much life and vibrancy. Not only does her music come across as meticulously constructed and technically composed, but its the overall vibe that she conjures up so perfectly within her tracks, with the beginning and ending feeling of records like chapter ends within this brilliantly never-ending narrative that persists in her discography. No wonder you see her name propping up constantly on other producer's releases as a remixer, such is the reverence she is held within in providing a brilliant edge to proceedings. To go back in time with D.Tiffany's music in particular is a true delight, with so much goodness to highlight and celebrate, with some of our favourites including her excellent self titled debut LP, that arrived in 2014; the etheral and crunchy 'Smudge' record from the same year; the powerhouse that is 'The Genero' record, that arrived in 2015; the soft tonal workout that is the 'Deep Intervention' record from 2017, that was split with Elka; the peerless brilliance of 'Blue Dream', that arrived in the same year; the slick flows of 'Feel U', that landed in 2018; the superb 'V2M' record, that was released in 2018; and finally her joint record with Rozi Terenzi, 2018's 'Oscillate Tracks 001'. Sweetland has also released a couple of records under her Zozi alias, that are both well worth checking out, which include 2016's 'Mellow Vibe' and the 'Planet Euphorique' record that was split once more with Rozi Terenzi. All in all, Sweetland sure knows how to hit the perfect spot when it comes to mood and atmosphere, and within each release there is something that everybody will get on board with. What remains the same across the board is her bonafide excellence in melody, a feature which is something to always be excited of with each release, but with the confidence in knowing you might be surprised at what you might come into contact with. If you like dynamic, flowing and intelligent dance music, then Sweetland's cuts are right up there with the very best going. Go on, have a little dip.

And now we arrive at her latest offering as D.Tiffany, 'Cruel Trance', that arrives via Lou Karsh's LKR imprint. Bringing over much of elements from some of her previous efforts, there's a distinct focus bought to the percussive rhythms that begin to really wrap around your head on this outing, where melodies are used a bit more sparingly in favour of truly remarkable drumming sequences and cosmic entrancing sweeps that really take your mind to new and exciting places. A new direction of sorts, but you can always count on the musical execution and flows to be very much on point, and here Sweetland does not disappoint, crafting a mesmerising world filled with all manner of features and elements to revisit time and time again. Mixing IDM leaning house with intricate electro stylings, there's so much to delve and dive within here, with the depths to the sound as ever being never-ending. So without further delay, lets get into it.

Up first comes 'Low', and we arrive into a seemingly restless scene filled with energy that could pop off at any minute. The reverbed hats dip and dive around a high end melodic frequency that jumps within the pool of sound, as drums lightly rise then fall with a permeance that hints at something else, as the swelling chords emerge within the distance. Its pretty spell binding in its feel, our heads placed firmly in the middle of proceedings as all these elements swim around, before it all cuts out to reveal just the cymbals, and the switch up is quite a dramatic one indeed. Not to worry, as Tiffany reveals her intention via the next few bars which build the track up once more in the exact same way, with the rhythmic passages carrying out the bulk of the work in moving the track forward, before we descend once more into the melodic vastness of the initial sequence. Such is the nature of the track - ever evolving, incessant, fluidity personified - that these movements back round to previously visited structures don't feel tiresome at all, in fact there is a real delight in coming back to experience these sequences once more, the nature of the sound design and placement of features so perfectly pulled off. The track then heads on as it means to, a endless cycle of enriching sonics that capture the imagination on so many levels, a truly incredible piece of music. What an opener. Up next comes '4 Leaf', and we begin as we mean to go on from the previous cut with yet another intriguing opening outlay. The percussive features are fast paced and subtle at first, crafting a pulse that could move mountains with its ravenous energy, as all manner of swirling cosmic technologic features abound with efficiency on top. The melodic features remain somewhat subdued for the meantime, with the bass line hammering through occasionally, before it all opens up in the most glorious way possible with the ethereal chord line sweeping up the backdrop with meaning and purpose. It provides a fitting feel to proceedings, with the track quite happy to switch up between moments of pure electronix textures that feel as deep and expansive as the ocean floor, but the chordal line never remains far away, swooping down occasionally to bless this superb piece of music with a little bit of emotiveness. The tune is happy to revert between these two modes, with our ears and minds firmly tuned into just what might arrive next on our musical palette. Serious stuff.

Up next comes the title track, and we arrive in slightly more straight up Beaty territory, but none of the previous intrigue has been lost on us. The beat becomes a bit more structured in its overall feel, with the overall feel still one of percussive excellence, as the melodic features become more prominent from the off here. Initially starting as a looped note, the sequences become complex as time goes on, with light chords interpreted with arpeggio key lines that continue this theme of spellbinding electronic interplay. The track simmers with interactivity, where all the varying elements reside and move within a constructed beat, the little lines our eyes are drawn too consistent and groovy, providing an atmosphere that is hard to resist. The melodic less structure is allowed to continue for quite some time, in order to work its magic completely on us, but before long the arpeggio synth line returns, its non-intrusive nature allowing it to leave and arrive in its own time, never wondering too far from the line of sight and always at hand to add in some melodic development when needed. The sub base of the track continues to amaze in terms of its sheer dynamism, its feel and tone one of layered brilliance that feels like a moving plain of existence. Damn. To finish up, we have '8 In Conga R', with the glitchy melodic line leading the way on this one. The keys and chords are chopped and blended to craft a sequence that matches the previous beat lead subspaces in relation to depth and intricacy, with Tiffany demonstrating her talent when it comes to the keys and how they sound. The sequence is very compelling indeed, with no one line feeling the same, as little variations and minute changes fuel the development of the track as it marches on forward. In the backdrop and underneath, change is afoot as cymbals and beats begin to form around the melodic driver, and now the track begins to operate on more than just one level, with the foundation and layers above all vibrating to the flows that keep coming off this track with such ease and enjoyment. The track then takes a deep dive into its bass section, as the key melodic line takes a break from the picture to allow for the drums and underlying elements to shine for a moment, and here Tiffany takes the time to push through varying moments that pick elements to highlight and draw power from, and its masterfully done. A truly special track to end on, an end to a record that is just compelling and probably unlike anything you will hear all year.

There's a lot to be said about this record, and its of no surprise that we consider it to be one of this years very, very best. Its a record that explores what the bedrock of a track can do or indeed mean to progression and development, and how D.Tiffany explores that ideal is something that makes this record stand out from the rest. The foundations are intensely complex but inherently focused, with a clear dedication to how these elements flow and flux with each other, alongside a fundamental understanding of the direction and destination of the sound. The evolutions that occur on this record are truly excellent, with the beats residing somewhere between our imaginations and the possibilities found within the depths of computers, which gives the record a truly unique feel, perhaps only one that D.Tiffany can pull off. A stellar addition to her discography, and indeed a record that helps to push forward the contemporary musical dialogue, bringing together elements that feel familiar but funnelling it through a spectrum of distant possibility. A record to make you believe once again. Top, top stuff.

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