OK EG - Prismatic Spring (Animalia, 2021)
The Melbourne based duo make their debut on the increasingly impressive Animalia imprint, with the EP containing a plethora of low frequency euphoria and impeccable rhythmic structures.
Embracing the potential of the lower ends of the sonic palette always leads to enriching results, and this has been the case for so many producers and movements throughout history. Ever since the days of Dub's hayday in the the 60s and 70s, musicians have perfected the art of bass orientated cuts that reverb fast and deep, operating not just as a rhythmic tool or pattern crafter but as a living breathing melodic driver that is able to channel the emotions we look to explore on the dancefloor. Bass notes and other lower octane melodies strike a chord within the listener, as it searches for the collectivised pulse that echos across the room or at home, moving and swaying to the kicks, hats and notes that unravel within each track or release, eager and willing to bend and morph as time passes by. The techniques that Dub championed would make their way into so many aspects of electronic music, from House to Disco, Dub Techno to IDM, Electro to Progressive house and of course Drum'n'Bass and Jungle, with the hefty bass sequences found in all shapes and forms across these pioneering genres of music. In recent years, many producers have been looking slightly backwards in time in order to provide much of the material that helps to push electronic music onwards and upwards, with big steps made in creating a worldwide sound that focuses on sonic exploration through the lens of progressive leaning house, techno and trance. Many producers have been perfecting their own take on this newly formed sound, one that is seeped in tradition but trims the fat of some of the 90s pretences, with the loss of some of the hallmarks compensated for with slick sequences that have that contemporary polish to them. The sound itself harks back to the hedonism and rave fuelled nights of the 90s, where dance floor attendees were subjected to experiences that transcended the material world and placed them on worlds beyond the horizon line, as tonal swells, tribal drums and hefty time stamps did wonders to the concept of escapism that abounded from these events. Back then, so many were concerned with carving out their own niche in relation to sound and feel, and this passion for creating a individualised corner remains just as strong to this day, with many present day artists doing their utmost to add to dance music's ever growing narrative and presence. The bass, the kicks, the sub level wavelengths, they all pummel the soul with the gentlest of breezes, eager and willing to provide an experience that maintains a steady rhythm but shines so very brightly as the subtle injections carry us to far away places. We find ourselves projecting a presence into the music, swimming deep within a cavernous realm that accommodates our various wonderings with such care and adoration, with the soundtrack one that weaves around the flutters that occur when excitement lurks within our bodies. The low ends are to be celebrated for their feel and tone, as the bass elements are pushed to the front as a point of reference, eager and willing to showcase to us all that they are made of. The producers who concern themselves with these kinds of sonics are creating a sound that builds on the foundations of past greats in order to craft peak levels of feel and enrichment, and we feel blessed to live within their rave fuelled progressive universe.
Out of this current crop of producers who make music in this vein, the duo of Matthew Wilson & Lauren Squire have been making real waves - mostly metaphorical but potentially phyiscal - with their deft and technically excellent take on dubby ambient driven techno and trance. The pair, who record under the name OK EG, have established a resonating voice for themselves, one that dwells somewhere on the foothills but once it gets going it can move mountains and minds alike, flourishing into a series of sequences that drive and drive some more into the possibilities of beautiful sonics. The lightest of touches feel meaningful within their compositions, with the relationships they share with their hardware a connection that always strikes the loudest when engaging with their fascinating world. The colours feel vibrant, the breeze feels warm to the touch, the atmosphere is boardering on ecstatic, and yet the manner in which they play around and manipulate with the drawn out progressions helps to keep us totally engaged with the forward momentum. The technical application is spot on throughout, with the layering of dense objects and light ethereal elements working so very well within a sometimes extremely heavy drumming pattern that rocks the ground which we find ourselves standing on. The sounds they craft contain numerous references to previous musical movements, but Wilson and Squire have really perfected the balance between the past and the present, their music pairing many well established tropes with vibrant tonal patterns that feel ultra modern in their application. These characteristics are evident within their small but exceptionally powerful discography, which includes two EPs up to this point, 2018's 'Pebble Beach' and 2020's 'Anther'. The debut was a enchanting narrative flow through dub techno and ambient leaning soundscapes, with an underlying textural application that worked a treat in providing singular yet brilliantly uniform sonic experiences. The final cut is a thing of beauty, and represents in its purest form what many in the scene are looking to craft these days, but not quite on the same level as these two. 'Anther' in many ways built upon the vibes curated in the debut, but with additional dynamics that did wonders in building further intrigue to the worlds that Wilson and Squire were constructing. The tone is more uptempo and driving than the previous outing, with denser and faster paced drumming patterns giving the compositions more weight and heftiness, with the sonics being transferred over to this record in new and exciting ways. This was certainly when the duo began immersing themselves in the possibilities of the highly expressive bass and acid lines, and the tunes speak for themselves as they evoke mood and tonal brilliance with every passing moment. In all, the pair have carved out their sound in the stone of the vast landscapes we see before us today, finding an area that matches the gentle rhythms of the sky, the percussive undertones of the ground beneath us, and the energised notions of the sea that becomes wrapped up in a euphoria inducing vibe that captures so much of the goodness that abounds from the current era. If you want to transport yourself to the outer fringes of inner fulfilment and soulful exploration, then be sure to check out their works, its a trip and a half.
And now we arrive at their latest endeavour, 'Prismatic Spring', that arrives on the increasingly impressive Animalia imprint. The record very much builds on the successes and sonics of the previous two cuts, integrating the sweeping flows and swells in density that make the duo's sound such an intoxicating one, but with this one there feels like a greater emphasis was placed on subtlety in the progressions. This emphasis installs a steady state of calm within the listener, crafting a sense of engagement that looks to follow all the meaningful deviations and tender movements that abound so consistently from this record. The consistency in the beats is matched by the liquid flows of the melodics that reside on top, eager to showcase their complete identity to us throughout two extended cuts and two smaller sound bites. Its a wonderful slice of music, so without further delay, lets get right into this sonically bass driven odyssey.....
Up first comes 'Alkaline', and this one begins in particularly engaging territories. The kicks pierce through the filtered clouds as the acid orientated line occupies the mid section of the progression, as light same-frequency keys shuffle around on the left and right of the pan, with an additional rhythmic bass note wobbling deep within the mixture. The drums quietly evolve and grow over time, as does the edges of the melodic features, with the density of the track increasing as we get further drawn into the mix over time. The drums kick out around the 2:40 mark, providing us with an opportunity to get to know all the notes and sounds that make up the exquisite blend of feels that sits on top of the drums, making their reappearance feel like an old friend returning into the fold, with the varying sequences working hard to continually morph and grow with the times. A wonderful opener. Up next comes the title track, and this one begins in somewhat similar environments. The kicks ring fast and true underneath, as a layer of ethereal chords and deep set swelling bass notes keep the blood pumping on the widest scale possible, and as time moves along we see evolutions occurring across the board with the most obvious being in the drumming patterns. The graceful flows that abound within this cut are gorgeous, jumping and skipping with glee as we move with the lightest of movements and the most tender of orchestral leaps, as the duo switch things up with the flick of a wrist. The scene we look out over is one of vast mountain tops, vibrant and lucid forests, with a painted sky that welcomes you to reach out and touch its textured brush strokes, with the light source that permeates through warming our skin with a deeply entrenched adoration. The track embraces our presence within it, a welcome into the fold that sees our attention gently pushed to the left, to the right, and of course deep into the pulsating earth and up high to the opening heavens. The progressions are subdued but operate so gracefully and with the purest intent, with gentle reminders to us that this is a living, breathing world that has much to offer, with a smiling face and broad open arms. Excellent stuff!
Up next comes 'Phase Transition', and this one starts off with a skippy UKG orientated rhythm to get us going. The melodics of course aren't far behind, as deep brooding bass notes rumble onwards just behind the percussive structure, with reverberating key sequences moving through the layers on top, providing that sense of enticement we have come to know and love within OK EG cuts. The overall picture becomes clearer by the minute, taking in all the expanses that reside in our immediate vision but highlighting a world that extends out in all directions, as the backdrop becomes filled with all manner of synth lines and tones, creating a dense and richly textured soundscape that you feel you could walk into and become fully immersed within. The contrast between the energetic synth line and the deep solid pads help to nurture that feeling of embraces, with the track occupying both sides of the pan with real efficiency, ensuring that all aspects of the field of view are filled with sonic treasures. The beat doesn't let up in this one, instead relying on the melodics to provide the sense of forward momentum, and as ever its balanced to perfection, with our hearts and minds fully invested in the direction this track is taking us in. To wrap things up, we have 'Triple Point', and this one begins with a two chord progression leading the way. The feeling is immediately dubby and aquatic in nature, the engineering of the keys having that just below the surface of the water vibe, as seismic ripples pulsate through the blue hues in the form of deep set bass notes, with the drums doubling down in response. The overall picture is highly dynamic, representing fluidity in motion as the melodic features and drums move along at a rhythmically engaging pace, eager to find space to show us new sequences and lines of inquiry, which occurs as the track breaks down around the 2 minute mark. The addition of more high line keys and chords provides further engagement as we move along at a easy going pace, the cut taking all the time it needs to provide the fullest experience possible. What a glorious ending.
To stand above and beyond in music these days requires a sense of legibility in relation to musical identity, and OK EG have curated that so very well over a short series of releases. Wilson and Squire focus less on the thrills of multi-layered complexities and more so on the swells in density, the soothing transitions between singular and multiple strands and the craft of enriching world building. Their sound revolves around a basis of evolving bass driven tones that provide so much space for ingenious flourishes to ignite the progression, and we see that occurring frequently on this record. The attention to detail is flawless and leaves the door wide open for many a mental meandering, our imagination soundtracked by some of the most free flowing and intuitive electronic music you have ever heard, and its this factor that carries us away to the stars and beyond into new and exciting territories. Blissed out to the max, deep and meaningful to the touch, its everything and more for that journey into the beautiful unknown.
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