Gene Tellem - Mind Reader EP (Wolf Music, 2021)
Like taking a few strides across a seemingly endless plain of experience, Gene Tellem serves up the goods once again with a compelling journey through blissed out atmospheric house that further pushes her overtly engaging and intriguing sound.
Unravelling, pulsating, feeling and moving - the hallmarks of many great and meaningful dance records, with these factors only appearing if the musician behind it has the belief and the passion to implement such features into their sonic narrative. We often arrive at this point where a individual's sound is anchored in a particular genre, with established tropes making appearances in multiple releases, but the top ends and melodies showcase the dynamism to push further into new realms of possibility, where the craft of atmosphere building comes into play with each record showcasing a differing ideology in relation to the layering of keys and chords. A pattern appears before us as a result, one that is difficult to pin down simply due to each release containing a individualised personality, linked mostly by the exploratory nature of the producer behind it all, an audial narrative driven by ingredients that have bountiful levels of flavour. To be consistently engaging in any form of music means that the musician must be able and willing to evolve and diversify their sound, whilst never loosing sight of their core ideals and stylings - for some, a continuation onwards via the form of new records sees a steady output that strengthens their voice, but doesn't provide those moments on releases that endear us further to their sound, a spark or ignition that draws our attention into a newly defined scope. Many producers have used instrumentation as a tool to achieving these ends, and as a result supply us with a slew of records that pinpoint particular crossroads and confluences that reside within their musical universes. It could be differences in drumming patterns, a shift in terms of melodic structures or tone, or a slide into atmospheres that combine the best of both, driven forwards by a desire to keep us on our toes and consistently amazed by fresh dynamics and bountiful soundscapes. It brings the listener deeper into the minds and visions of producers when this kind of narrative is achieved and sought after, where the notes and patterns rotate, divulge and multiply to great effect, ensuring that each record brings something exciting to the table. Pathways start to crop up that leads us along threaded alleyways and corners, across the stars and meandering along streams and creeks, with our imagination filled with memories and pictures of places we have been before or where we might end up next, that excitement lingering in the air like a summer breeze. In a genre like house where over saturation has become frequently discussed over the past few years, its refreshing when we come across and engage with producers who occupy their own little slice of the market, a niche corner that sounds like those that came before but remains intrinsic to their little sphere, one that orbits around a higher power but is a worthy destination when we need a little bit of the good stuff that only they can provide.
If you wish to embrace a house sound that champions the intuitive, free flowing and dynamism, then Montreal based Gene Tellem is certainly an artist you should get to know and love. Since her debut back in 2017, Tellem has engaged very much so with the idea that with an elastic and loose approach to melodic structuring, the possibilities and resulting compositions will be endlessly refreshing, and with each record she has pushed there seems to be new ingredients and blends added in constantly to provide differing tonal branches to her sound. At times playful, at others inner-reflective and brooding, its the kind of house that never shys away from any context or mood but flourishes in filling up its context with just the right amount of feels, with the music often containing enough of a punch to transcend minds on the dancefloor but also featuring a superb depth in technique as to be enjoyed throughly on headphones at home. Tellem has an approach to her craft that has worked wonders so far, providing us with a narrative that sees keys and pads speak to one another constantly on top of a foundation of percussion that is bold, crisp and precise, with the elements residing within a realm of musical existence that has much to offer. This approach has served to highlight Tellem as a producer with a significant musical dexterity, with her skills being channelled through a vision that can seemingly pull off any number of house flavours that all feel interlinked yet individualised at the same time, and that is certainly a skill to treasure in the ears of the listener. Her discography is all worthy of a mention, so we'll begin with her debut on SOBO, 2017's 'Who Says No', that introduced the world to her lush and vibrant take on house music; the expansive deep house that resides within the superb 'Untitled' record, that came out in 2018 on Wolf Music; the wickedly diverse and rhythmically absorbing 'The Inner Dance' record, which arrived in 2019 on her own imprint, Bienvenue Recordings; the broad and enriching sonics that reside within the 'Big Bill/Tender As A' record, that also arrived in 2019 on the excellent La Rama Dubs imprint; and finally, the slow burn late night whisperings found on the wicked '2 Nu Trax 4 Dance' single, that came out last year also on La Rama. In all, Tellem showcases her dynamic and fluid style on her sleeve, content to highlight to us all her many strands of musical interest through a morphing identity that always pairs beats with keys but in so many engaging ways. Tellem pairs classic house tropes within her own unique channel, where the melodics don't immediately hint at a usual progression to emotional plains but instead reveal themselves in the subtlest of ways, taking their time to showcase to us what the highest level is over the period of a track's running time. It puts us in a very relaxing state of mind, one where the neurones are being massaged by rhythmic flows and melodic touches, as we embrace the inner essence with all that we have, giving ourselves over to the cut and its many inner riches. In a musical landscape where the listener is spoilt for choice, Tellem's music rises above to a peak due to its indefinite melodic capacity, interesting rich beat progressions, and an overall tone that represents her fascinations with mood which provide us with a discography that is as free flowing a narrative as the music found within it. Its house music for the modern age, and maybe it even points very much so to the future to, such is its ability to accommodate and abound creativity and innovation. Be sure to give her previous works a listen, trust us you won't be let down!
And now we arrive at her latest effort, 'Mind Reader', that lands back on the Wolf Music imprint. The overall tempo gets turned up just that little bit, providing a springboard for a series of remarkable melodic sequences to flourish, which include ethereal chord progressions, intricate key lines and an overall surge of energy that never lets up from start to finish. Aside from Tellem's three original cuts, theres a reworking included from Deep House icon Jenifer Mayanja, who pulls off a brilliant edit that captures the essence of Tellem's version and channels it through her own unique take on dance music. As a collective, the tracks have all you could ask for in forward thinking progressive house, with the beats rhythmically excellent and the top layers just as compelling, with the music providing us with an experience that takes you right up to the clouds but leaves two feet firmly on the ground, with the pulses running through our feet to reside somewhere deep in the neurone network. So, without further delay, lets dive into this excellent record.....
Up first comes 'Ain't Got Everything', and this one begins with the drums and singular note getting us going. The groove is all encompassing, moving on both sides of the pan with a breezy easygoingness that sets things up very nicely for the introduction of further melodic features, with the sequence now accommodating the floating bass line and distant swirling note lines, which only furthers the feeling of expanse and scale. The vocal samples move into view to dominate the playing field, calling out to us across the sonic tundra as their presence encourages pads to slide into the layer just below them, with the overall picture now completely brimming with vitality. The keys undulate and weave around one another, crafting a singular feeling of momentum that sees differing cascades flicker from within the tangled excellence, with solid pads lifting up key lines to craft a climatic presence. The keys mostly fall away to leave behind one singular chord to keep the thread consistent, with the drums and vocal samples helping to maintain the rhythm, as the melodic features start to slide back into view once more as we are allowed another extended moment with the keys, with this second climatic interlude just as satisfying as the last one that came our way, as the environment that sets itself out in front of us one of wonderment and pure joy. A triumphant opener. Up next comes the title track, and this one begins with the drumming pattern forging ahead into the cavernous wilderness. The melodic sequences arrive much sooner than in the previous cut, with a gentle background key line hovering around the top ends as it plays and speaks to the bass line that exudes all kinds of energies underneath, with the trio of elements setting things up very nicely for the panned vocal sample to chatter to itself across the foundations. Further sequences arrive in the form of rising key lines that add to the intoxicating blend of rhythm and melody, with the various elements playing off of each other flawlessly as we continually move onwards and upwards with each passing moment, the vibe impeccably guided by Tellem's steady hand. The moves into the more drum laden scenes contrast very well indeed with the melodic heavy 'choruses' of sorts, with the transitions drawn out not over breakdowns but the slightest of changes to the beat structure, creating a fluidity like that of a calming yet sometimes energetic river, soothing yet engaging all at the same time. The first real dip of energy leads into a differing melodic outlay, as piano notes being to interact with the ever present vocal sample, which acts almost like a percussive element within this track as it matches the consistency of the beats. Both of these cuts just go to show that you can really create those switches in energy without the need to obsessively break it down, superb stuff!
Up next comes the Jenifer Mayanja remix of the opening cut, and it begins in more subdued territories. The flickering acid leaning line serves as a focal point for the other elements that make up this immediately engaging soundscape, with a rising chord line on the left and distant synths underneath it all creating a presence that you worm your way into the middle of, content to watch and observe as the track blossoms into life. The simmering synths rise from underneath to fill the spaces between the varying sequences, adding further depth and urgency to the composition as the sense of feels rise up through our body, with the climax of it all arrive as the hats pull away to reveal a gorgeous piano line, and like that we are off. The densities arrive at their natural conclusion before the drum line arrives, with the resulting segement a fine thing indeed, as the kicks and toms bring in shakers, bongos and the like, with the piano line standing firm amongst a sea of absorbing house sounds. The vocals move in and around the arrangement with an inherent ease, providing a commentary to the sublime tones that shift and groove underneath which helps to guide us to all the important nodes and interchanges that throw themselves at us as the track evolves. The more stripped back segment that comes in around the 4 minute mark sees further inventive applications occurring, with star gazing synths working alongside the vocals and a driving bass line adding further depth to the groove, with the breakdown that arrives next moving the cut into a drumming only sequence. Its a glorious switch up, and just goes to prove that Mayanja is a master of her craft. Top notch! To wrap things up, we have '2nd Time Around', and this one begins in suitably compelling territories. The filtered synth notes weave and dip around the spacious percussive undertones, crafting in their wake a crazy amount of space for which elements can look to find themselves a home, a fact that starts to evolve as the hats arrive and a delicate key line and pulsating bass line worm their way into the flow. Not long after arrives the solid synth segment, which keeps the composition steady as further keys cascade in and out of view, with the overall feeling evoking within us that aerial view out onto a picturesque landscape, with the colours seemingly more vibrant than usual. The transitions as always are perfection, with the drums letting up only very briefly to signal the melodic layers to serve and move in differing directions, with the final synth additions finding a space within the melting pot of euphoria. A ending track worthy of any record.
When listening to this record, you get taken aback on numerous occasions at the craft of it all. We always search for producers who push the boundaries, who are capable of evoking moods through their layering and technique, and for sure Gene Tellem is one of those producers. Her records have always contained elements that simply dazzle in the morning sun, and this release is no different, with her showcasing an ability to balance out intricate sequences within a hefty drumming structure. The transitions are handled superbly, with wonderful movements between areas of density and spacious sequences that keep the mind firmly engaged with all that is going on, with multiple listens a given in order to soak up all that emerges from each cut. Mayanja does an incredible job at merging her stylings with Tellem's, and her reworking provides just another element of this EP that works so very well. Across the board, there's so much to praise, and its something we have come to expect from Tellem and her unique take on house music. A real stunner, this one.
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