OOFT! - Reclaim Landscapes (Clandestino, 2020)
Rich velvety soundscapes unravel and delve deep within the consciousness on this wonderful new record from the Glasgow based producer.
Spreading your sound out is never a bad thing, and in many cases its the sign of a board reaching and deep thinking producer. Surprise can be a powerful tool within an EP, in that elements that become established from previous releases or indeed in the first track of a record get carried through as a thread, but the structures that revolve around it shift and morph to fit the mood. Its kind of a way in setting up varying environments and atmospheres within the self contained realms of a producers sound, with a constant nod to the varying influences and passions that persist in the universe of their minds - how can the sound be expressed differently between each track, and how do they operate collectively, or individually. More often than not we become attached to producers and musicians who look to operate within this spectrum of constantly searching their self determined boundaries of sound, looking to populate that world with all manner of interest and intrigue, as their musical landscape becomes that bit more immersive with every release. There's always usually a driving mechanic for instigating these changes, be it the melodic features, drumming patterns, progressions or tone, that then feed into the overall vibe, the dense or the sparse, and of course the overall atmosphere of the track or record, which in turn lends itself to feeding into the overall direction of how discographies develop over time. To delve back in time we begin to see patterns emerge that help us become further immersed in the story of a artist, with the ability to experience what they tried to do at any one point in time providing a compulsion to become more involved in what they want to express and get across to listeners. Its always refreshing when a producer is capable of pulling these kinds of things off, along with having the confidence but also the vision to be bold and brave in their intentions, never shying away in order to express themselves via their music in the most intuitive and musically complex kinds of ways. We start to look around with more wonderment at the possibilities of what might come next, leaving us on the edge of our seats, contemplating the riches that will land into our listening sphere, the balances and the dynamics that will unravel and enrich us as we move forward into another addition to an increasingly expanding musical universe.
Ali Herron, the brains behind the OOFT! moniker, has since his debut back in 2009 continued to add and evolve to his audial foundations in the most exciting and mesmerising of ways. His work mostly revolves within the realms of deep house and at times nu disco, but he has very much carved out a niche spot within these two diverse genres where his sound multiplies and spreads like never before. Its very much the melodies and tones he crafts with the keys that form the basis of how tracks begin to transpire, with each release forming into a new breath of fresh air with its approach, sound and feel, with the core ideals of each record passing on to the next and the next one after that. This is where you get to see and feel his identity as a producer come across in all its glory, inviting us into this wonderfully constructed narrative that dips and bends around our emotional heart strings, affording us time to get within the music but providing a scope for us to grow and feel, as if the track is compelling us to join side by side on its journey into the next life. Each release sees a new stone being turned over, a new angle for which to delve within, a extraordinary environment that opens up to us and wraps around our ears, Herron's works are truly mesmerising and thought provoking, where the time is clearly taken to the craft and the musicality of how songs play out and develop in time. The full spectrum is very much catered for, but you never loose sight of Herron's core ideals in any of his tracks, and that is where his talents lie - a producer with the ability to continually evolve his sound, but never loose sight of what remains important to the basis of it all. From the softer tones of driving deep house, through to the smooth grooves of the disco orientated side of things, to the rhythmic pulses that permeate some of his smoother driving works, you will be immediately drawn into his works through their immediacy and depth. Going back through his discography, we have selected some highlights, that include the feel good loops of the 'Ride In To The Red Zone / Spanky Spanky' record from 2010; the stabby driving tones of the 'Memories EP' from 2012;
the dense acid tinged goodness that is found on the 'Here For You / Whistle Time' record from 2014; the vocal lead powerhouse that is the 'ReWorks Volume 1' EP from 2015; the undeniable funk found on the split single with IIo, 2017's 'Untitled EP'; and finally the wonderment that is his debut LP, entitled 'Intricacies Of Modern Life', that arrived in 2018, and is very much a full bodied representation of his musical representations up until this point. No matter how far in you go, you will always be entranced by the musical offerings that are found within, be it with the gorgeous weaves that occur on every track, or the powerful percussive elements that carry the groove, or the delightful keys that hover and craft mood, there's little pieces to continually be infatuated with. And that speaks volumes of the person behind it all. We highly recommend going back through this wonderful discography and getting to know it all in all its glory.
So now we arrive at his latest offering, the mini EP 'Reclaim Landscapes', that arrives via the Clandestino imprint. Like with much of his previous works, we are constantly moving between varying plains of tonal expressionism and feel, where the deep and intense melodies take their time to weave and unravel around beautifully conceived beats. Not only that, but each of the tracks resides within its own little sphere of context, where application to varying environments is met with the highest level of quality, with more club orientated tracks residing alongside more laid back vistas of sonics. Whatever your mood, wherever you might be, you will find all your emotional needs fulfilled right here on this excellent record. So, lets take a dip.
Up first we have the title track, and we are greeted with the soft caress of shimmering cymbals and hats. The classic rave Balearic bird sample (is it that?) makes its presence known, immediately providing an unspoken narrative to help us align with the feel, with the kicks carrying the track forward into the next phase. The deep full chord line then swings in from the backdrop, slight at first before coming into full view with immediacy and presence, with their ever growing character inviting the additional cymbals and hats, alongside the acid line and vocals that begin to emerge and take centre stage. These two features become the focal point for a while, moving us away from the rich melodies and into a moment where we take a breather, before the song swings right back into the richness of the melodic sequence, that is truly something to behold. This time round its introduction is as soft and gentle as the previous time around, not building up to its full strength yet but taking time to layer and delve more, which is achieved very well indeed with the addition of the gentle stabs that underpin the groove. The keys are much more airy, as the acid line builds and grows around the beat, finding all the spaces between in which to call home. Following one final dip into the more stripped back sequence, we get one final chance to lift off as the big big chords make their presence known one final time. Its a fitting end to a song thats flow just doesn't seem to end, and one we could immerse ourselves within until the end of time. The stuff of dreams. Up next comes 'Obligatory Consumption', and we begin in more straight up territories with this one. The thick dense drumming pattern is delightfully balanced with the singular note plodding away on top of proceedings, which is interlaced with another key sequence that jumps around with the beat with great purpose. These two elements are quickly joined by the brilliant bass stabs, that rise above and below the drums and note lines, before then being joined further by another sequence that compliments the two melodic features, kind of acting as an inbetween within the sea of developing sound. This line then grows enormously in stature, moving from its subtle introduction and moving into taking full control of the melodic progressions, the way in which it rises and recedes before exploding with colour and feel, its quite the sight to behold and take in. The track then takes a dip in sound and feel, the drums cutting out at interspersed moments, before the track builds itself up into a full on melodic masterclass, pulled off with such gusto and flair, as we are built up from a moment and into a enriching landscape filled with so much to marvel at. The manner in which the track progresses up to this point is so so good, and as the track filters out from here we are left with a feeling of the utmost fulfilment and pleasure. Damn!
Up next comes 'El Clinico Magnifico', and the tempo takes a dip during this moment. The track begins off with the lush rhythmic feel underpinning the melodic sequence that runs along top, the chiming keys and lines doing much to craft mood, with the track building up before adding in the bass line for good measure, as the main keys change before leading us into the drum break down. The percussion continues to add to itself here, grooving with real intensity and flavour, with new cymbals and hats adding texture and variety, with the melodic features seemingly keen to get back in on the action. The slight hint that they will remerge begins at this point, short and sweet at first before moving into full on all encompassing mood, our view completely covered by these gorgeous chordal lines that sweep through the night sky and right through our hearts. Its a beautiful and enriching scene to witness, something to get fully involved in, and just like that the introduction of the chiming key line just adds more to the narrative. With the track now in full flow, its quite a sight to behold, something which is hard to fathom in terms of its transportation qualities, to a new place we haven't experienced before, or to somewhere we know quite well and are yet to really see in all its beauty. To finish up the original cuts, we have '21 Processes', and this one is going to be a slammer. The kick is immediately up tempo, setting the pulse for what is to come, as the bass line pummels underneath with belief and feeling, and before long the top end of the track is brimming with life. The chordal lines are soft and discrete, with textured whirlwinds of keys and sounds moving and grooving between the chiming key crescendos, making this beautiful textured approach that then feeds into the bass line making itself very prominent indeed. The track is now in full swing, and as we move more into it the track arrives at its apex, with the once soft chords moving into the mother of all ascends, their fullness taking hold and moving the tune into a very euphoric state indeed, which lasts for a few bars indeed. The drums cut out for a minute, allowing us to appreciate the chords in all their glory, before we are greeted with the reintroduction in all its glory, the drums developing into a new beast entirely with all manner of claps, cymbals and hats doing all they can to keep the fire burning as long as possible. Its fucking magnificent. Pure joy.
To wrap things up with the record, we have two remixes of the title track, curtesy of Clandestino, providing a straight up remix plus a Beach remix. The straight up remix is quite the delight indeed, taking soft considered chordal arrangements of the original piece and laying them over the sweetest sound break beat d'n'b percussive structure you will hear all year, creating this real 90s sounding track that elevates as much as it grooves and moves. Clandestino focuses on the flows between the drums and uses the chordal lines to great effect, with the introduction of dubby key lines adding further to the feel of forward momentum, alongside the squelchy acid line that emerges between the spaces created and nurtured by it all. The breakdowns are a particular highlight, which then allows the track to emerge with the kicks underpinning the beat, adding further to the power of the remix and all it brings to the table. Excellent stuff right here. Finally, the Beach remix provides the proper by the sea late at night kind of vibe, and seems a fitting end to an album filled with energy and passion. Clandestino focuses on what makes OOFT!'s releases very special, that being his inspired melodic progressions, and here we get to witness them in their full glory, as they gently caress us with their soft embrace and warm touch. The sound takes us to many places, its breezy nature could soundtrack any view, any soft view out into the world, a landscape filled with the quietest form of interactivity, moving from a place of gentle embrace and into a welcoming home. Its beautiful in its conception, and it will leave an undoubted impression on any one who wishes to listen to it. As remixes go, you might not here two better ones all year, just in terms of their respect for the original material and how they wonderfully interpret the source material to craft new experiences that add so much to the strength of the record in which they reside on. Bliss ain't even it.
There's a lot to say about this absolute gem of a record, in that there's an enormous amount of things to take in, yet they all make sense and work so so well. OOFT! has been pursuing his ultimate sound for some time now, and alongside his debut LP this must rank somewhere up there as his best work, not just in the quality of the content and diversity of the sounds, but the little touches here and there, along with the melodic genius involved in the progressions, that make this record a complete stand out from this year. You become so invested in what the songs have to say, be it the manner in which the drums slowly unravel and take you away with a groove of such epic proportions, or whether the melodic tones have you lost in another world filled with such gorgeousness that your eyes remained closed for minutes at a time, there is nothing else left to say about how damn good this album is. Truly a highlight of the year, and a record to savour until the ends of time.
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