Kassian - 8th Movement (Heist Recordings, 2020)
Updated: Jul 13
Infectious grooves and melodic moments from above make up this beautiful new record from the London based production duo.
Keeping the fire burning during house songs can always be a tasks, but dependent on ambition and diversity in sound, you can create something very special indeed. Musical formulas are forged very much by the narrative which is developed and added to by the people behind the tunes, who from release to release look to demonstrate their take on the genre in which they choose to represent their visions, their take on the sound which they inhibit. Within the realms of house, you have many voices who look to make their music known, and within such a dense musical landscape there is much to marvel at - producers who push the boundaries, who seek to blend and delve just a little bit more, who wish to serve up something that builds from previous releases. Within the realms of house and deep house, there is much influence to draw from, with countless sub genres, scenes and musical communities around the world churning out their own representation of what house means to them, how it might sound in the club, or where it might transport our minds to. Within the contemporary scene, where genres are seemingly becoming more morphed and blended than ever before, the artists who stand out are often those who offer on the one hand a familiarity, an essence in which music lovers can connect with perhaps on a merely aesthetic level, but underneath there's a lot more that rides on the personalities and passions behind the music. Records that become appreciated today are released by those who make it their duty to express themselves with a merge of styles and tones that fit within a template of sorts, but its the unique twist they apply that really engages an audience. The kind of house music that fits snugly within a set, but leaps out at you for its individualism, its technical application, or its intelligent composition of tones, chords and textures. By spreading the boundaries of influence and application far and wide, we start to see the producers and artists who occupy their own little space within the dense contemporary house music scene, their sound aligning itself with those that came before but always daring to do more, an eye for the future as much as their hearts lying in the past, and perhaps a bit in the present. Its these kinds of records that do much to push forward the genre, with the four on floor seemingly ever present , its the feel, the tone and the elements on top that fuel the imagination, and continue to push both personal and collective creative boundaries forward into new realms of possibility.
Kassian have certainly been making waves since their debut back in 2018, and its by applying these kinds of ideals to their music that has made it so. The duo, made up of Warren Cummings and Joe Danvers, have worked within the facets of house music throughout their discography, but each record seems to slot within their expansive vision for their music, with heaps of character that abounds from every record they push out. Set within the rhythms we all know and love, Cummings and Danvers span numerous styles in relation to melodies, tonal effects and transitions, which provides all their music with both an exceptional flow between structures but a light emotive touch that is differs from track to track, an almost self contained sensory experience that works on so many levels. The duo have a real knack for conjuring up mood and progression throughout their work, weaving a very interesting narrative indeed between the beats and the chords, which is often aided by inspired vocal work that always provides another interesting edge to proceedings. Spanning from more classic sounding deep house cuts, through to jazz tinged workouts, through to dance floor fillers, its all covered through the pair's short but highly infectious discography, that when exploring will take you to all manner of internalised locations far and wide. Their debut, 2018's 'The Premise', was an intensely groovy affair, and as debuts go it really said as much as possible about the duo's superb approach to crafting high quality house music. It also went a long way to display their variety in crafting house music, which only hinted at the potential of the pair to keep this momentum going. 'Faux Polynesia' would follow in the same year, which contained some real deep house gems, with the focus musically here being the pursuit of how chordal arrangements and placements can really tug at the heart strings and feed the mind, all the while taking some time to introduce some jazzy elements that fitted along brilliantly amongst the more up tempo burners. In 2019, they launched their label, Kassian Versions, with the fantastic 'Kassian Versions 001' record, that featured a series of stomping edits which once more expanding their musical universe just that little bit more. The 'Music Without Words' record followed later that year, a record that really felt like a summary of all the facets the pair had touched on before, with the quality of the music truly up there amongst the years best. Finally, their previous outing this year, the 'Shuffling Words' EP, again pushed on and continued the wonderment found within their music, demonstrating new and bold sides to their sound. The manner in which they link and contrast their melodic compositions between differing styles is refreshing, helping to link together the tracks even if the drumming and tempos are slightly different, and this is a feature that keeps people coming back for more. The ability to try their hand at various representations of the genre has allowed Kassian to continually evolve, their sound now extremely well rounded and fleshed out, and by this point it seems as if they really could pull any side of house music they wished to. Adaptability has always been the sign of a great producer, and these two have it in spades, not just in how they blend and merge styles together, but doing it all through their own perspective and vision. Do take a gander at their previous efforts, you will not be disappointed.
And now we arrive at their latest effort, '8th Movement', that arrives via Heist Recordings. From the off, we are greeted with the precise yet intricate beats we all know and love by this point, but the pair once more take a new direction with the melodies, the ever changing element of their sound that keeps the narrative going on strong. By looking back and pairing existing elements and features with new aspects and ideas, this record builds on their previous outing from this year in so many ways, and just continues to fuel people's interest and adoration for the duo. Its truly excellent, a new path for us to follow, as Kassian take us down a new direction within their ever expanding musical landscape. And with Parisian producer Leo Pol on remix duties, we are in for something special with this one. So lets take a dip!
Up first comes 'Apollo', which sets the tone right from the off, and features percussionist and keyboardist Laroye on guest duties. The beat is rhythmically rich and layered, with the kicks and hats keeping time whilst all manner of beautifully considered bongos and percussive elements abound with glee on top. Its extremely joyous to listen to, and by the time you have your head wrapped around that, the bass line has joined in, pulsating away through the heart of the track, signalling the chord sequence to begin setting up the melodic tone. By the time all these features are in full swing, you have an intensely funky groove, which is only made the more intriguing as the reverbed key sequence moves in from afar and lands gently on top of the track. The transitions in this track are brilliant, with the duo moving the density in sound up to a certain point before pulling it all away to reveal the groove, so subtle but so fucking effective, just in keeping the engagement going. The drums pick up a fast paced hi hat that injects the rhythm with new purpose, and the steadiness of it allows for all manner of bold melodic moves to occur, with the mini break down that occurs around the 4:30 mark pulled off very well indeed. The energy levels get upped one final time, and the track drifts off into the night sky. Fantastic. Up next comes the title track, and we begin in a slightly different landscape than the previous outing. The drums are pitched just around the same tempo, but they are a bit more deep set, possibly to accommodate the singular chord in the backdrop so that it can be appreciated for its deep feel and mood. The percussive structure is really well balanced, with the core drivers of the kicks and hats allowing for the elements on either side of the panning to add those little pieces of interest as the track progresses. After running through the key structure of the track, the duo begin to introduce new chord lines that then sets us up into the main melodic feature, the deep set chords that align themselves within the centre of the track, placed and poised perfectly by the immaculate set up. The vibe moves forward in this vein, before the track then reverts back to its original feel, with the spaces within starting to open up, as the sound is populated with little key lines and chordal swells, providing the perfect break between the rhythm orientated segment that came before. As the track picks itself up again, a bass line makes itself known to us, becoming paired up with the rhythmic chords that strike true once more, again elevating the feeling and atmosphere contained within by the manner of transition between beats and melody. A great musical experience, for sure.
Up next comes the Leo Pol remix of 'Apollo', and we begin off in familiar territories. The drums recede a bit in this one, but their complexity becomes very apparent with each twist and turn, crafting an entirely different feel from the original track, which is always a sign of an excellent remix. 90s style organ chords permeate through the thick rhythmic arrangements, with the song structure really flowing between mini climaxes of sort, aided by some wonderful melodic additions that keep the ebbs and flows coming on strong every time. The bass line remains chugging away at the bottom of the track, its presence keeping the groove going along strong, as Pol allows the song to foray into the cosmic outer reaches with his key work, crafting an otherworldly vibe to proceedings. Its a fantastic remix, and sits proudly alongside the Kassian original, providing a similar sort of feel but allowing itself enough room to get Pol's style across to us. To wrap things up, we have 'Brass Hammer', and we begin with the beat for the final time. The drums are once again rhythmically rich and deep, with the deft blend of percussive features mixing in very well with the steady kick, whilst also providing all the space needed to let the bass do its thing right through the middle. Before long, the slight introduction of the chord signals the vibe to get up and groove on, which in turn signals the beginning of the melodic sequence, and this is very very deep indeed. The single chord strikes true, its presence flickering in and out of time, and after being allowed to run itself a few times, we move from a quick breakdown before flowing right into the progression, which remains short but very sweet indeed. The minimal approach to these parts of the tracks allows the build up and lead into the melodically full parts of the track to really shine, providing us with the respite from the intensity of the drums. Its a perfect ender to things, one final expression of what these two guys are capable of, which is some of the finest house music going. To sit down and appreciate all the little things they look to achieve, all the snippets and insights into their world help to craft a musical experience thats rooted in rhythm, but never too far from the melodies that piece it all together.
Kassian have achieved much in their relatively short time releasing music, and with each record they put out this observation is only reinforced more and more. Their style contains an enormous amount of substance, from the deep set beats through to the expressive and carefully placed melodic progressions, its all found within their music. This latest EP seems them explore a much more workout orientated sound, but they pull it off flawlessly, and why is perhaps due to their ever expanding vision of what house music can be like. If you set the bar far and wide at the beginning, it only sets you up for future success time and time again, and the duo really do have a winning formula up their sleeve. Whatever they wish to do next, we are very sure it will be a great success. A real pearl.
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