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Shampoo Douglas - Kepler 66 (Pluie/Noir Recordings, 2020)

Mindful beats meet considered progressions on an EP filled with ideas, concepts and quiet brilliance.

Pluie/Noir is certainly a label to keep your eye on, or if you haven't gone back in time, exploring their back catalogue. Their beginnings are rooted in the ideals of releasing music with a difference, exploring the notion of utilising high end production to provide a basis for all sorts of classy and thoughtful innovation. The minimalness that exudes from their records is one that allows for focus, providing moments where we are drawn and captivated by the subtle changes, the movements in tones, and the addition of a kick drum. Their two compilations, the 'Thoughts On Sight And Sound' releases, display a label willing to nurture and promote producers who dive deep into the depths of sonic exploration, creating a series of subscapes that intrigue and challenge in equal measure. These two comps set the tone for the rest of the labels outputs, and both stand up there with some of the best experimental tunes going today. Other releases, such as RADIQ's 'Rhapsody', Duve's 'Hargate', Atree's 'Pambore' and Peter F. Spiess' excellent 'Polymorphs XX' mini album, all feed into these idea that the label is trying to conjure up moments for dance floors and home listening combined. A warmness washes over us through each record, an inherent focus on the textures and emotive depth of each sound really shining through with equal brilliance.

And now we arrive at their latest release, Shampoo Douglas' 'Kepler 66', who have looked to try their hand at many a genre, but always with their own unique twist. Their first two releases, 2018's 'Bonanza / Lemtosh EP', and the 'Pesto Life' mini album showcases their hand at making deep and low fi house with a twist, with many intoxicating grooves and melodies located deep within their tunes. More so, it was the movements that really drew attention, their ability to blend various styles and structures together made for really enjoyable listening experiences. Their 2019 release, 'Polypako', moved this all a step forward, as the duo looked to stripping things back and making some proper compelling and hard as fuck beats, with key work to match. By throwing in some UKG slices in there, they moved their music forward to new realms, and their final release of 2019, 'InstaGame 4 PistaFame', once again saw them push their sound just that bit more, with a delicate blend of deep house, minimal and electro providing cuts that move and groove deep into the night, whatever the setting. Arriving at their latest release, the tone has shifted once more, as the duo have looked to delve deeper into the Electro side of the spectrum. The minimalness returns, allowing breathing space for all manner of focuses and elements to retain our focus, but meaning we always feel engaged. The tracks are extended to, in order to squeeze every last ounce of goodness from each one. Its a new direction for sure, but one that was never left avoided, as their open mindedness to genre building and song creation means that this remains a viable and logical direction for the duo to be making. Dazzling drum programming, soft tender pads, and bass lines to boot, this is one classy record. So lets get to it.

Up first comes 'Thrill of Romance', and it kicks things off very nicely. Distorted thrills and drum noises, interlaced with delicate keys, feel as if the track is wriggling to release itself from its bounds. And free itself it does, as it explodes into a heated and heavy bass line, complete with chiming notes. The beat is smooth, kicking up a notch a few bars in, as the track begins its forward momentum. This part feels like it is setting up for something, and behold! The keys from the intro come right back in. Very soft, residing somewhere in the back ground, it is almost as if the track represents the many levels of being smitten with someone - the racy heart beats, the passion, the intensity, the tenderness . The track does a wonderful job at moving through the motions, with the proper kick drum work out signifying the movements between sequences, as the track moves away from its evocative tones and into a full on beat work out. Around the 5 minute mark, it all hits a bit harder, the bass emphasised in more detail, whilst more pads and tones come into play. Its quite a journey, ill give it that! Up next comes ‘G Domain’, and this begins in a similar manner. We see the bass used once again as a scene opener, that then feeds into a series of notes and key lines that add an extra edge to proceedings. Before it falls away, the keys coming sliding back into view, but only for a minute, as the track floats back into its hazy dreamy drum sequence. But then! It moves very quickly back into the harmonic elements, a series of chords and keys join forces, to create an atmosphere that focuses on the feeling rather than the rhythm. The acidic workout then follows…..these guys do a fantastic job at using pads as a framer, to guide the listener through the many scenes on offer. We move through a series of landscape tailored to the most adventurous of electronica explorers, where elements come together to comprise an overall experience that feels fleshed out, real, alive and full of motion.

Next comes ‘Reednonko’. This one begins off in similar fashion, the drums combining once again with the pulse of each track, the bass. The qualities of the bass line is always on point, having this very UK sound to it (Hyperdub to fuck), that always follows the beat but ends up doing its own thing every single damn time. The workout levels are high here, the energy receding then building, like a wavelength moving at breakneck speed. The tune has a very interesting tone, never looking to peek its head above the rafters, always looking to reside below, eking out every single last drop of goodness from the sea bed, and providing to us an experience layered to hell with brilliant and out there sounds. Finally, we come to ‘Arobogosta’, the final track of the EP. This one begins with a fleshed out beat, with spaces between the lines less so this time round. Chimes and singular notes abound, the excitement and the tension growing, the electro vibes in full swing. Pads threaten to take us away, but not quite yet. Then, as the track looks to break down slightly, thats when the pads hit. Its superb, the build up so slight and subtle you just couldn’t really guess when it was gunna hit. The backdrop these synths provide is immense, more full and centre stage this time round. The track swings in roundabouts, moving between tonally excellent and composed breaks and bars, and is a stunning end to an EP full of twists and turns.

Overall, this EP does an excellent job at providing sublime, beat driven sonic goodness. But it's not sonicness as you know it. Its a kind of quiet soft subtleness that drives it, creating little moments that resonate with you long after you finish listening. The Douglas duo have always hinted at this kind of direction before, but now they fully embrace it, on an EP filled with expansive goodness that we thoroughly recommend revisiting again, and again, and again.

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