Rob Belleville - Still Waters EP (Fluid Electronics, 2020)
The newly formed Fluid Electronics imprint gets off to a flying start with this pearl of an EP from Dutch Producer Rob Belleville, who delivers as always with his rich blend of sonics and substance.
Finding a way to blend all manner of tone into varying beat structures and atmospheres is no easy task, but for some producers they really do take it in their stride. Its about understanding the essence of what you wish to achieve, what vibe you wish to immerse yourself in and involve yourself in, the flows of the genres you adore flowing through you in order to achieve something of true greatness. For some, a dedication to these passions is a lifetime undertaking, with the fruits of these undertakings coming forth in the representation of beautifully conceived music, the contents of which pay homage yet further the endless scope that creatives can see in their minds. Within electronic music, there really isn't much of a perimeter that can be set in concrete, merely a membrane which is tinkered with and teased over time by various producers around the world, who look to imprint themselves in an expanded universe that remains constantly shifting and hard to define. To stand out amongst the sea of music being produced, its important to find a voice that reflects the person behind it, a message in the tunes that resonates with listeners and makes them compelled to follow and invest in a music makers journey. Sometimes this can be achieved with perfecting the stylings associate with one genre, where little by little we see a producer build up to their magus opus, their final incarnation of intrinsic sounds which will remain in our minds for time infinitum, or perhaps its achieved via the exploration of the fringes of sound, where genres meet and blend and flux with one another. This is the beauty of electronica as an umbrella sound, in that many genres came into being simply by one or a handful of producers merging two distant yet similar sounds together into a pot that cooked up something very enticing indeed, with the fringes acting perhaps as the most important intersect where conceptualised ideas became very much the reality. It could be the tone, the melody, the progressions or indeed the atmosphere, but for many who kept track of dance music developments in the past few years, its producers who hover at the crossroads who often serve up the most memorable of records and moments in time. Their sound conceived by a dedication and a passion for crafting music inspired by a wide variety of sounds, where the expanse became filled with probabilities and ethereal realities, populated by brilliant ideas and deep pools of tone and excellence. We just get wrapped up in their world, a cross reference to all manner of styles and blends, each record drawing us deeper into their sonics, where possibilities become reality yet always remain somewhat open to new and exciting things to unravel.
In many ways, the career of Rob Van Beek has read like a continual dip into these kinds of ideals, with his brilliant music always revolving around a core thread that remains very much his own. Ever since his first foray into music production back in 2008, Belleville has continually nurtured his engrossing sound, one that is heavily leaning towards deep and ambient techno, with his craft beginning in a very refined manner before simply continuing to inspire ever since. Belleville began his musical odyssey as an absolute devotee to early house music before immersing himself in the 90s leaning genres of IDM, Techno and everything in between, and via this dedication to all the sounds which flowed through the decade, he started djing before making steps into musical production, and hasn't looked back since. His music remains one of delicate balances between etherealness and emotive progressions, alongside a musical universe that prides itself on complexity and intelligence meaning that with every release you will get an ever shifting landscape to familiarise yourself with. The music dips and weaves around the core essentials of house and techno, but continually searches for ways in which to be emotionally engaging, with a significant emphasis on down tempo sensibilities and layered atmospherical chords whipping up the listener into an imagined land that comes alive when soundtracked by Van Beek's music. Textured, filled to the brim with things to see, its like a visual mind map that contains the inner riches of melodic euphoria, moments of clarity that present themselves to the listener throughout a listen to any of his records, bound together by core ideals but never set in stone in the direction of flow or progression. Each record he released furthers his always expanding world, a universe seeping in colour and feel, a visceral sound that never fails to delight those who look to engage with it. There's a certain sophistication to proceedings, a charm and value found in his music that highlights Van Beek's approach to music making, one that fills and populates his boundaries with a sense of identity that continually feels the need to grow and expand with the times. Its the sort of music that lets you dream and believe once again, capable of transcending listeners to new plains of existence as much as it gets the blood pumping down here on earth, with Van Beek capable of pulling off all manner of feel with equal brilliance. During his career, Van Beek has largely released music under the Rob Belleville name, along with recording a couple of albums under his Elusan name, and with so much goodness to highlight, we have selected some favourites of his to get to know, starting off with the soft gentle soundscapes that weave and dip on his debut EP 'Maritimus', that arrived in 2008; the excellent ethereal dynamic techno notions found on the 'Sounds Of Introspection' EP, from 2010; the pulsating rhythms found on the ever shifting 'Unchangeable' EP, that landed in 2012; the deep expanses that reside within the excellent ' Implacable Force' EP, that arrived in 2018; the warm haze that washes over us on his 'Biodiversity' EP, that landed in 2018; the incredibly deep and vastly melodic landscapes found on the 'Memorabilia' record, that arrived in 2019; the wonderfully expressive and diverse sounds found on the 'Time Is Running Out' EP, that arrived earlier this year; and the highly impressive musical stylings found on the 'Bolt From The Blue' record, that also landed earlier this year. As Elusan, Van Beek turns up the atmospherical notions just that little bit more, which resulted in the chiming and never ending goodness found on the 'Unexplored Atmospheres' album, that landed in 2014; and the the truly beautiful soundscapes found on the epic 'Projection Of Moods' EP, that arrived in 2018. No matter that you see and feel in these records, one notion you might come across is the feeling of warmth, pleasure and fulfilment, a world that invites you in and continually gives back as you weave and meander through its ever shifting landscapes. Every release joins hands to create a through and impressive sound that crafts a path like no other, one seeped in dedication and belief that will never cease to amaze. If you feel like taking a journey back through time, its well worth it just to get to know this man's amazing music, and who knows, you might be astro projecting before you know it.
And now we arrive at his latest offering, 'Still Waters', that lands on the freshly conceived Fluid Electronics imprint, a sub label of Dutch label Fluid Funk that focuses on the deeper sides of house and techno. We couldn't think of a more perfect artist to get the label going, and the force of nature that is Van Beek's music makes itself very much known as you listen to this superb record. Beginning off in familiar territories with his signature techno tinged downtempo blend, you move through a full bloodied Conforce remix (of Delsin and Transcendent fame, no less), before sweeping through the final cuts with all the gusto and bravado in the world, in an intoxicating listen that will remain in your mind for many days to come after the record stops. Van Beek continually set new boundaries with his music, a perpetual flame that changed colour and mood to suit the room it resided in, and with this excellent new EP its no different, with the style situated right on the tipping point between slowed down numbers and high octane cuts, its one for all contexts and styles of play. And hey, this is the way in which Van Beek always played it, a sound for every day of the week and every emotional context you could think of. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first comes the title track, and we begin with the soft drumming styles interwoven with the bass pulse, that weaves and dips around the percussion with meaning and feel. Before long, we are joined by the soft expansive pads, that descend and spread over proceedings, washing over all elements of the track before turning its attention to us, keeping us locked in to the feels overlapping from every corner. The drums switch up to match this introduction, with added hats and cymbals doing all kinds of work to get the blood pumping, The combined forces really do a brilliant job at locking us into the progression, as light swirling synth lines move on the peripheries of vision, with the pads expanding and contracting with each passing bar, seemingly given a freedom to choose how they express themselves with each moment, with the little variations in size and tone doing much to craft a brilliant sense of progression and engagement. The track takes a dip into a more slow paced drumming sequence for a moment, allowing all the melodic elements to sing even more brightly and boldly, a pool of intoxicating sound that feels so real and alive, before the drums then swing right in as the chords fall away. This new shift in focus brings into play the arpeggios, a shift from melodic fullness and into a different kind of feel all together, our thoughts ever changing and shifting to match the switches in tone. The track then plays itself out, content in how it has taken us on one of the most beautiful journeys we might venture out on all year. Top draw. Up next comes the Conforce remodel, and you better believe the blood is pumping on this one. The kicks and deep set stabs set us off, the tempo significantly upped from the original, and we couldn't be more excited to see where this goes, as little flickers and expressions begin to populate the track as it moves forward at a break neck speed. The gentle introduction of synths and pads adds a lovely contrast to the speed of proceedings, as percussive layers also align themselves with the track, giving the cut a beautiful sense of forward momentum and a progression that remains unrivalled, with our hearts and minds fully engaged with all the little elements that make up the track. The cut takes time to descend into a kick less plateau, allowing us to get to know the melodic tendencies just that little bit more, before slamming right back into it with real purpose, as the stabs and large wide reaching keys do the business expertly well. The track then moves into its final third, as deep set synths start to permeate through over the horizon line, before the cut starts to see its way out, reverting back to its original format before playing out into the night, its mission very much accomplished. As re works go, its a fantastic compliment to the original cut, very different but still capturing all those little variations and transitions that made the original so effective. Top notch!
Up next comes 'The Golden Hour', and we start off in some gorgeous sounding house areas with this one. The tempo remains up tempo, with the melodic structures revolving around the kicks as the hats and other percussive elements do their magic up top, but its the keys that fill the spaces that really engage and delight with this one. Continually moving and dipping around the pulse, their arrangement works so well with the flows, and when the drums move away during the breakdown, we get to see their full glory, before the track picks itself up once more and moves on with the times. Little key lines act as leads from this point on, a guide through an increasingly dense melodic world filled with all kinds of magical tones and textures, keeping our engagement levels very high throughout, as little variations which characterised the first two cuts doing a significant amount to keep the ball rolling. The track continues to switch between varying structures and sounds, doing much to keep our interest perked up at the highest level as the shifting sands of feel continue to groove, with the tune really gathering momentum around the 4 minute mark, as the fast paced hats give a real sense of movement going forward. This is the one significant thing about this track, its ability to move through the gears at a moments notice, to keep the interest and dynamics flowing and on point. The final cut, 'Lost From View', keeps our attention riding up very high indeed, and ends up being a perfect ender to a record filled to the brim with all manner of energy. The beat is delicately balanced with the soft melodic features that reside on top, which takes a dip from its initial sequence before rising up once more in all its glory, as little harmonic elements start to fill all the spaces inbetween. Its a fitting end to a record that shows such an array of tonal and melodic environments, one that doesn't shy away from pulling any punches when it comes to tempo or softness, just a series of excellent cuts that would fit into any set or context with absolute ease. Such a delightful piece of music.
Van Beek has become very much associated with the kind of deft approach to revealing the true nature of tracks, via subtle and technical applications that keep the track progressing along with a real breeziness to it. Alongside that, its the manner in which he crafts and builds his tracks sonics that always keeps people on their toes, with a dazzling array of environments and soundscapes to choose from that have flowed from his finger tips, its a continual source of amazement to all those who listen and apricate his works. This record is no different, with his signature blend of house and melodic techno working wonders on us, with each cut representing a different side to the narrative. And as narratives go, its endlessly compelling, with each track containing so many facets and ideas that ensure repeat listening is an absolute given. Wonderous, expansive and deeply touching, its a record that simply confirms Van Beek as a master of his craft, with his core identity very much achieved and continually applied. A truly excellent record.
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