Derek Neal - Reason Machine (Funnuvojere Records, 2019)



Transgressive grooves meet all the good shit on this supremely impressive, expansive debut.


Blending styles is always a sign of a producer in control, full knowledge and awareness of their musical journeys. Tracks envelope and grow organically, starting from point A and ending in the distance, and we are full of content. Sometimes this journey is less obvious, we are less clear about the messages, but sometimes the grooves help us along to a point of familiarity, where the emotion cuts deep and the feels take us apart, us basking in its eternal afterglow. Genres and movements and feelings are melded into a series of tones and environments, our guides the synths, our movements flow through the beats, and our minds blessed as a result. You get this vibe very much from Funnuvojere Records, who have blessed us with expansive journeys through their releases. Curated by Massimiliano Pagliara, the label has a distinct sound and tone running through its core, with the delicate use of synth and drum progression expertly developed through each EP, that allows for the listener to grow with the music, as it moves and flows through us in equal measure. Progressiveness feels very much rooted in the label's ideals, and is a feature which when done right warms the mind as much as the body.


Derek Neal sure does that job right here on this, his debut EP. From Montreal and Turin, via France, the producer has lead quite an interesting path to arriving at this point in his musical adventure. Inspired by a plethora of sounds, from 90s hip hop to contemporary alternative, to Joy Orbison (a key influence) and the current Canadian scene, his music draws from many points in time and place. The tunes have that 90s progressive feel about them, perhaps influenced by context, but very much have a foot in the present, the melodic and expertly produced harmonic elements giving it that emotional kick we all know we needed. This EP displays many flavours, and touches on breakbeat, deep house, and 90s techno (big time, always a good thing!), but always leaves us at the end of every song extremely content. The music does a fantastic job at opening itself up, before concluding in a place where we wish the loops could go on forever, with a huge big fat smile on our faces. Lets take a dive.


We kick things off with 'Sky City', that begins its journey in the form of a vocal sample interacting with synths. These grow in confidence, swelling and morphing into a singular energy, but still retaining each layers identity. The backdrop of fuzz moves us into a beautiful little breakbeat style drum pattern, that is introduced at the same time as a subtle bass line. The hi hats kick in, moving the tune forward yet again. The build up is smooth as hell, as we are now locked into the groove. The synths move away for just a moment, before coming back in once again. The pads really do fill the backdrop, creating a soft sense of depth, as the drums continue on their hypnotic journey through the motions. Mid point, we are introduced to a little stab, that is accompanied by another vocal sample, providing us with some narrative, that can perhaps join in with our own narrative. The beats and layers kick back in, as the tune builds once again. Another bass line comes in, and swells from the deep to the forefront. Hmmmmmmm, transitions! 'Jet Fuel' follows next, and begins with the drums. A little bass line works to fill the space beneath the drums, moving the intrigue forward, as we hear pads moving around in the background. And here comes that powerful techno styled synth line. Introduced softly, the tune now has all its ingredients, it just needs to take it away from here. The pads are impeccably placed, building and growing, coupled with the drums perfectly. The little variations here and there mean we are always at the edge of our seats, just waiting patiently for the next part to come in and blow us away. The high tempo hi hats add another dynamic, allowing the beat to grow as much as the harmonies do. oh yes!


Next comes 'October', and we are placed in the driving seat. Conjuring up the boundless energies of city scapes, flashing lights and moving objects, we are provided with the perfect companion for people watching in this chaotic world. The beat is up tempo as hell, hammering home its endless journey, as the keys move around underneath, just waiting to be released from their slumber. Like much of the current Canadian scene, the emphasis is placed on replicating that timeless energy of the 90s, but passing it through a spectrum of modern day feels and vibes. The emotive message is clear, the narrative opens itself up through the clever use of variations here and there. This very much feels like Mr YT or Telephones, in its soft use of synths over a powerful beat. The tune slows down for a second, to allow the synths and bass to breathe for just a minute, allowing us to see the beauty that is held within this song. Before it all grows once again, the beat locking us in once again as we are taken away through the mire and glamour of city life. Finally, we arrive at the end of the record, with 'Stereo Sense'. This really is the crown jewel of a sparkly and dazzling EP, a journey through the senses (hehe) guided by a beautiful synth line that moves and grooves its way into our minds. Over a paired down beat, Neal here lets the harmonic beauty take over, the line moving into the background and back into our thoughts. The beat evolves over time, growing in stature, allowing the synths to move forward. Like a breeze, the tune blows all around us, allowing us to take in as just of its majesty as possible. Sublime.


And so we come to the end of the journey. A journey through vibes old and new, a journey from a point to a vast expanse of sounds and landscapes. This EP is as invigorating as it is tonal, smooth and glowing as much as it is thought provoking, a dip into a pool of all things dancy and moody. Neal has crafted a living, breathing world here, one where our senses are interacted with on many levels, through his clever and subtle progressions that always leave us moving, and always leave us feeling and thinking. Emotion seeps through, and we are oh so ready to drink it all up. We can only expect many exciting things from this producer.


Support the troops:


https://funnuvojererecords.bandcamp.com/album/reason-machine