Gallery S - Gallery S (Self-Released, 2020)
The future of the dance floor emerges from this brilliant piece of cross genre exploration, an intoxicating sound and vision that will reverb around your head way after the record stops spinning.
When dance music becomes visceral, overflowing with colour and teeming with free flowing spirits that feel tangible, then the immersiveness inevitably follows. There is a significant amount of dance music that remains reflective of its context, of a certain mood in which perhaps the producer has chosen to dip their toes into, a reflection of the sounds swirling around them channelled into the process of music making, and there is a significant amount which floats around which evokes a particular mood or visual image, an vision that becomes stronger with the degree of personality and flavour which becomes injected into proceedings. We close our eyes and imagine a space, a room or perhaps a landscape, teeming with activity or even inactivity, a bubble of energies that binds us to what the musician is looking to portray, either via their music's overall aesthetic or the tones that swell from within. For some producers, they are able to really imprint themselves within the essences that revolve around their genre or genres of choice, a feeling that jumps out of the record and into our frame of mind, a connection forged from the ability to convey their image, their mood, their feeling into the music. Dance music has always been able to evoke mood, and even when we listen back now to records associated with certain contexts and scenes from back in the day, we can quite powerfully imagine the atmosphere that informed these records, and when they get played out today the significance of these records resonate with us, of a time passed but still remaining very much in the consciousness. These days, the producers and DJs who stick out the most tend to be able to float between and stitch together the past times of dancing together with the ambition of what might proceed tomorrow, their ability to craft threads within their music that bridges gaps within the contemporary musical landscape allowing them to stand above the rest. The music found within these artists discography is able to convey a meaning and a message, one that often remains unspoken but displays its narrative through incredible balances between melody and texture, the atmospheres crafting transporting listeners to new realms yet to be experienced. Pairing a spectrum of sound with something tangible, something you can feel and live within, is something dance music lives for, but only within some artist's discography do we immediately pair experimentation with ground breaking imaginative ideals, where the fruits of creative endeavours transpose themselves into sequences, segments and progressions. This is the music that bridges, it builds, and it conveys, all in one go, and its absolutely wonderful.
For a while now, Wyatt Stevens has been rewriting the way in which we pair varying moods and tones with the age old art of melodic imagery, and the manner in which he pulls it off is always phenomenal. Alongside making music, Stevens is also a audio visual artist and filmaker, which perhaps helps to inform the manner in which he makes music, with his productions not only wide ranging in terms of styles but constantly shifting between emotive plains of existence, with a willingness to channel into all sorts of imagined contexts and environments. His music feels paired with a personal experience, either recorded during a spontaneous recording session or from within a certain frame of mind, as Stevens navigates around the contemporary soundscape with such ease and understanding, you just know that all manner of musical wizardry is going to flow from his finger tips. His music feels very much like a mind map that feels extremely intrinsic to the man himself, a representation of passion that really comes over to the listener, a feeling that began life within the individual before giving itself over to the collective, something to truly believe in spiritually and musically. Within his records, we see all manner of genres and styles cropping up, from the tried and tested sounds of house and techno, through to hip hop, hardcore, jungle, rave, downtempo, ambient, gabber, drum'n'bass, breakbeat, electro, and pretty much everything in between, with seemingly no end in sight as to how Stevens looks to apply himself to his music. The manner in which he binds this all together is so impressive, with threads coursing through the music's veins that remains his and his alone, a spider web of tones and textures that never fails to amaze or delight, energise or tantalise, all the feelings you get within as the song passes you by. Looking back through his works, you see such an array of expressions, with each record showcasing new sides to an already very well defined core foundation, but never failing to amaze us in where that foundation can be extended or perhaps even rebuilt from the ground up. Stevens has released via a select number of aliases and within a group context, with MoMA Ready being his most prolific, and the other being the AceMoMa name, which he releases music under with best friend and fellow producer Acemo, with the pair considered two of the shining stars of the NYC underground scene. Some of our selected favourites of his as MoMA Ready include the soulful progressions found within the 'LOVE' single, released in 2017; the varying sonic caresses you experience within the 'BODY 17' record, a true modern day classic, that got released in 2018; the equally wide reaching excellence found on the 'BODY 18' record, that landed in the same year; and the artistic expressionism found within both the Ocean Walker I and II records, that really push boundaries into some very exciting places indeed, which were released in 2018 and 19'. With AceMoMa, pretty much everything the duo have released is worth listening to, including the single 'On Top (The Mountain)', that landed in 2019; the incredible self titled EP from the same year, a truly extraordinary release that turned so many heads indeed, the raw power of the 'Power EP', that also landed last year; the energised sensation contained within the 'EP2' record from this year; and finally the duos first LP, the brilliant 'A New Dawn' record, that pretty much summarised the duo's ascent through the ranks to the pinnacle of contemporary dance music. Be it within the context of a duo or individually, Stevens shines so very brightly, with his dynamism and ability to weave and craft visual narratives so beautifully, via the power and rawness of the dance, translated from the live setting of boundless expressionism and condensed down into a experience we can all get behind. A true visionary, and we cannot recommend his back catalogue enough, so be sure to check it out.
And now, we arrive at his newest alias, Gallery S, with the new self titled album, that is self released by Stevens. As Stevens himself put it, this record is full of music 'from the furthest corners of my brain', and there are certainly elements of it that feel extracted very much so from memories of the dancefloor, the heat of the rave, the spirit of the 6am hands in the air. A beautiful fluidity runs through the tracks, like a stream of consciousness that channelled itself through drum machines, samplers and keyboards, a presence that fills the room and the heart right from the off and doesn't transcend until the music comes to a close. Its dynamic, technically excellent, and just gorgeous in its shimmering depths and percussive feel, heated and heavy in equal measure but emotionally tender, all at the same time. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first comes '100 Skyward Fist', which features collaborator Spade, and we begin in typical MoMA fashion indeed. The sweeping drumming patterns that open the song up are joined by the soft gentle bass that rumbles underneath, with delightful key work that wraps itself around the cymbals and hats, finding the spaces between the drums to really push things forward. The song takes its time quite quickly to slow down and really craft the first crest in the track, as the chords swell with arpeggio synth lines bringing the energy up higher and higher, before flowing so well right into a more melodically sparse bridge. Stevens repeats the trick once more, however this time the crest is left to develop over a longer period, it's depth along to expand over the track like warm honey, gracing everything it touches, filling up the eyes with desire and feeling, as the track then demonstrates its powerful drumming sequence once more. There's still time for one more melodic peak, as the two chord change adds another feel to proceedings, marking another moment for the dancers to get involved within, but its something we can all get behind. Just close your eyes, imagine a scene of highs and lows, therein lies the imagery that jumps forth from this beautiful track. What an opener. 'A Sudden Collapse' arrives next, and the drumming style is immediately more up tempo, with the kicks at the intro frantic and jumped up to the max. The melodic features on top are extremely slight, soft mumourings and tinkling lights, but the way in which it unravels is fantastic, as additional lines, cosmic aligned sounds and vocal samples begin to make their presence known. The drums then become more full, as cymbals and further kicks are adding into the mix, with the melodic features on top moving within a cycle of prominence before being filtered into the depths, which is used to help transition the track between varying sequences. This occurs to maximum impact around the 2:30 mark, as the track moves down in gears before an additional synth line works wonders in moving things forward. One for the heat of the night. Up next we have 'Almost A Break Track', and this is a very interesting one indeed. The intro is all about the chopped up rhythms of the Amen, which is constantly shifting and moving in and around our view, filling up the background and foreground with its never ending feel, a energy that does much to move us with its dynamism. The melodic features feel wonderful consistent, looping between a series of notes that hold the focus within a powerful sea of sound, a choppy ocean that has us wrapped up in a vortex of hyperactivity, and its fucking glorious. We remain a passive bystander during this one, content to take everything in that swirls around our heads, content to allow for these sounds to really just take us away to new realms of percussive excellence. 'Tier One Program One' arrives next, and we begin with the chordal line bringing us into things, with the set up meaning this could really go anywhere. The kicks begin their sequence, fast paced and packed together in groups, as the cymbals and hats begin to emerge from the depths of the middle ground, as the melodic features begin to swell, with the chords joined by chiming keys, that rise and rise and rise, before descending into the backdrop, just in time for the cymbals and hats to really up the ante. The momentum now is incredibly tangible, the feel of the track moving into some very exciting places indeed, as the hypnoticness of the track gets pushed even further, as Stevens takes the time to move the track between varying tonal plains and places, blurring the lines between what we immediately see and what remains in the distance, the middle ground a constant shifting presence, which then allows for the transitions into more clear cut areas of expression to be that extra bit special. The track then plays itself out, and is probably still playing somewhere, moving along to the rhythms of life infinitum.
'Hello? Brooklyn (Interlude)' pops up next, and after all that brilliant enthusiasm, its time to take a moment to reflect and pause. A sombre moment, a few seconds of inward perception that remains within one plain, with occasional peaks into the outer reaches, as gentle melodic features peak and flutter in the distance. The gradual plain then begins to unravel percussively, with the lightest of kicks and hats swaying within the track's deep underbelly, as sprinkles of sonics emerge from their slumber to drift past, a ringing telephone in all its mundaneness seemingly bought to life as part of this enriching soundscape. Even with the most withdrawn of performances, Stevens makes it as compelling as his full on works, and that says a lot about his dedication to all aspects of his sound. The vibe then rolls superbly into the next cut, 'Kage, Titans Shadow', which features shampoo, which takes the atmospherical depth even further into the realms of energy and tone. The drumming swings around the kick, with lots of high octane claps and toms moving between the spaces, as the cymbal comes in to add further rhythmic edge to proceedings, but it has to be the ominous spaced out chords that occupy the backgrounds that grab some of the attention. Their presence, foreboding and eerie, adds such weight to proceedings, adding a layer of feel to the drums, giving them a sense of place and purpose, inviting the listener further into the parameters outlined in the previous cut, and its quite a magical place to be involved within indeed. When the drums do cut out, it again invites the melodic sequences to up their game, to come out from the shadows, and make their presence known. Epic, to say the least. Up next comes 'The Subtle Sound Of Dying', and we admit this might be our favourite cut off the whole record. The tune begins with the dub soundsystem vocal sample setting the tone, allowing us to get a feel for what might transpire, as little hints flicker here and there about what might pop up next. Then, all of a sudden, comes the moment of sheer energy, wherein before the transitions had been mega but restrained in order to fit the progression, the manner in which the breaks come in is just an explosion of sheer musical will. They are allowed to go for a few moments alone, before taking time to invite the emotionally charged chord line to come into view. Its a tear jerker to be sure, a moment for the dance to reflect, smile and let go, its just fucking glorious, and that isn't even considering how unique the beat is. The breaks sit on top of highly charged but really slight kicks, which add such a rhythmic tone, but means that the beat has a really interesting balance to it, with the high end not offset by the low ends, which really suits the weight of the chords, giving the track a real air, a sense of grace, that feels really unique to the producer. The track then sweeps through some more chopped up motions and swings through varying scenes, before coming to a close with the chords riding high one final time.
'The Creation Of A Universe' comes next, and the emotive burning sensation translates over to this cut also. We intially arrive into a soothing bedrock of chords, soft and gently undulating, but that is snatched away as the chopped up rhythms descend on us, crafting a brilliant feel that then moves into one of true brilliance. Stevens does a fantastic job at bringing together so many elements of percussive energy, with the obvious nods to drum'n'bass, jungle, hard techno/house, and even juke and footwork all amounting to a track with no limit on what it could wish to achieve, and lo and behold it descends into this wrecking ball of a gabba tinged beat that acts a perfect bookend to all that wide spectrum of energy. Its suitably his style, and the track then continues to groove dramatically between rhythm and melody, sometimes pairing the two together and at other moments keeping them far apart. But overall, you are in for one hell of a ride. 'We Could Have Been Better' arrives next, and the drumming patterns kick us off on this number. The loose beats are joined by chiming bell like notes, with the hats quickly joining the procession, as the track then fluidly moves into its core percussive foundation. The track has an techy vibe, as computer orientated sounds permeate over the percussion, which leads the way in providing all the switches and changes in mood, adding in small but significant lines of drum dialogue, the track's beat laden layers speaking to each other with grace and elegance. One for the deep night, for sure. 'Tier One Program Eight' arrives next, and the melody comes back to the foreground on this one. The chiming stabs of the singular become the wonky very quickly, crafting a very spellbinding opening sequence indeed, as the drums then arrive to compliment this stellar opening montage of sound. The two working together in tandem is quite something, with the chopped up drums switching between abrasive moments and fast paced kicks, going toe to toe with the seemingly never ending changes to the melodic structures on display. Its a real kick of energy, and for a track of this magnitude you would need a context filled with life, vibrancy and emotion to keep up with it. A real fuel injection. 'Go Deep Restructure' arrives next, and the percussion leads the way once more. The drumming has a real swing to it, the high end fuzz of the toms is quickly joined by the dense deep bellowing kicks, with vocal samples swirling around the two to provide a rich layer of narrative to this opening salvo. Stevens once more hints at some kind of destructive energised introduction, but it leads into this wonderful soulful rendition, the drums remaining as heavy as ever but providing a wonderful contrast to the sample that appears on top, the simmering cymbals adding real weight and feel to proceedings. It just works so perfectly, a summer jam paired with the gritty raw sounds that flow from the drum machine and those who utilise it, its quite something to get within and enjoy. To wrap things up on this wonderful record, we have 'Grace Under Pressure', and there is one final burst of melodic energy to get us going. The chord structure is suitably full and flowing, lying on top of a brilliant bed of evolving drums, with lots of space afforded to each element, a rhythmic bedrock of feel and tone. Its a fitting end to a record that never fails to surprise, immerse and also visualise, a series of cuts that as always with Stevens contain so much depth and tone, with textures overflowing from every point of view, every vision, every way you look at it. So many moments, so much to uncover, and well, its some record. Brilliant.
Its the moments of switching it up, of crafting beats together to spark a new sequence, of bringing warmth to a series of beautifully expressive beats, that make this record a real stand out amongst the current crop. Stevens really understands and knows his vision, his manner of working, and over these twelve cuts we get a peak behind the many doors that probably inhibit his extremely talented mind. Visionary to the point of euphoria, percussive to the extent of smashing windows and bones, deep as the fathoms of the human conciousness, you will feel and see a lot with this record, from its earth shattering highs to its sombre lows, with a sense of tenderness and care never far behind. You close your eyes for a moment and see something in the distance, but then it arrives right in the foreground, a thing to behold and invest in, before it then broadens out to show you so much more than that. This record accommodates all kinds of feelings we might have about music, and then moulds and shapes the part which we can't quite put our finger on, and makes it into something truly incredible. One of the finest LPs of the year, for sure.
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