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Symptoms of Love - Foam EP (Planet Trip, 2020)

The second offering from Planet Trip is a funk fuelled, Balearic tinged house masterclass from the talismanic Symptoms duo.

Warmness through depth of sound, and evocative of mood and memories, often leads to the most fulfilling and enriching of dance music. Where producers really dive into the inner meaning of it all, the essence exuding the concept of relatability through sequences and tones, the creation of living breathing atmospheres and environments that hark back to positive experiences and good moments in life. This is often achieved through the heartfelt chords, the slow and steady drumming patterns, the interchangeability of grooves and notions, but it often comes across when the music relays a sense of life, the flows and complexities that abound within the natural world and our sense of urbanity. The interface where these two meet is the drink by the endless sea, the calming smooths of the ocean or vast vista that makes us feel calm, the evening sun slowly descending into the coolness of night. This perimeter, this emotive sense, the place between humanity and nature, has been captured throughout time, but perhaps not as successfully as the Balearic movement that began during the 1980s. The music produced is a timeless mood set, a vibe that perfectly incorporated the island of Ibiza's sense of freedom, connection to one another, and in turn the world around them. The Mediterranean swiftly followed suit, the mellowed moods chilling people out all around the globe, its delicate blend of funk, bass lines and soft chords creating vivid images of the breeze, the trees and the sand. Its a winning formula if there ever was one, and now we find the explorers beginning to delve back into its beauty, looking to harness the energy to create new experiences, new narratives, new scenes and scapes.

Symptoms of Love, aka Detroit based producers Ryan Spencer and Ben Christensen, really do capture these spirits, these ideals, these rich and intoxicating visual environments. Their approach to music creation couldn't be more seeped in the organic, their dedication to expertly concocted instrumentation really giving the tunes an injection of meaning, rhythm, and above all else, a high octane soul. The delicate is balanced brilliantly within a well paced sense of progression, where tracks softly move along, allowing all the little lines and keys to be picked up and really enjoyed by those listening. Their debut EP, 2019's 'Eye Contact', that was delivered via the brilliant Canadian imprint Sounds Of Beaubien Ouest, is a causal stroll through a breezy slice of excellence, three cuts of synthy funky goodness that speaks enormously to the duos' talent and vision. This dedication to all things silky and wholesome shines through, paying a homage to the roots of Balearic sounds whilst injecting a hefty dosage of personal identity into it. The character that spills from the music is infectious, and will provide a worthy soundtrack to many a positive environment or mood. So it makes sense that they have released their newest EP, 'Foam', on the Australian imprint Planet Trip. This represents just the second record from the fledgling imprint, but it already bodes well for their creative and musical vision in regards to the content involved. The debut was a stellar EP from Caravan, 2019's 'Rivera' EP, that was a beautiful chug through the slower side of 80s analogue funk, deep set sunset tones, and wonderful pacing that gave off an unreal late night deep night vibe. An impressive debut, for sure, so now we arrive at the latest from the Symptoms of Love duo, that continues on their search for rich tonal perfection, and oh boy do they pull it off with gusto. So lets take a dip.

The opener is the 'Seaside Mix' of the title track, and we already move into the emotive context that will define the EP. The slow motion bass and drums move along at just the right pace, the bass aligning itself to the spaces, as on top all manner of chordal lines and keys let themselves known. It abounds delicately, the driving three chord line very much a ideal of the Balearic noise, perfectly wrapping itself around our ears. The excited vocal sample key line adds continued flavour to proceedings, and this is where the personal touch becomes more clear. It has this sort of raw 80s house vibe to it, the swirling vocal sample cutting right through proceedings to deliver a real nice and unique experience. It's not just relying on the chords, this track covers all bases, feeding into the notion of its identity. The progressions also work to this end, moving through different scenes, the look out the car window of endless vineyards before the valley opens up to the simmering sea. The golden light, the vibrancy of it all, its glorious, to say the least. Up next comes the 'Streetside' mix of the same track, and the trip becomes much more open ended. Perhaps reflective of the more obvious nature of cities and urban life in their complexities, the track is lengthy, with many of the vibes from the previous cut carried over into this. The drums begin us off, although given more of a full housey sort of sound, as the bass recedes slightly, becoming less prominent, the vocal sample key line plays more of a part, the noise of narrative playing more of a role. The chords make an appearance, but are placed more so to frame all the energies and relationships between the denser sounds. The emphasis is placed further on progressions between sequences here, the melodic elements working over time to signify movements between moments, and the sound continues to evolve and evolve and evolve. Its magical, a perfect companion to the city, the complexities purely represented through a maze of lines and keys that paint the most vivid of street scenes. The manner of its never ending perimeters provides a journey through the motions, a track that endlessly searches for more to feed into its environmentally charged feel. The way in which it breaks down, the drums falling away, to lay bare the essence of it all is a beautiful comedown of sorts, allowing the listener to really engage with it one final time, the closing of the first chapter of the record.

Next comes 'Nightwatch (Cassette Mix)', that keeps the urban fire burning very strong indeed. The pumped up drums are akin to many an 80s second wave disco track, and this is before the high octane bass line swings into play. The energy levels are high, as the pads join in on top, a series of swirling chords interlaced with progressions that give vibrancy and excitement across the board. Its once again the imaginative use of vocal samples that give it all a sense of a story to be told, interlaced really cleverly within the track, embedded in a grander sense of it all. The track moves through the motions, unravelling itself into a full on live band sound, the intro of guitar and continually multiplying key lines give its a real edge, a groove from the gods, a craftsmanship of the highest order. It really is something. Next comes 'Freshwater People', and we move through once again to the slow chugs that characterised the openers. The drums take it way down, as all manner of sounds fizzle and recede on top, the bass remaining consistent and keeping it all together. The dubbed out chord jumping in when the feel is just right, the chime key line signalling the switch up for the toms to join in with the progressions. The sparseness of harmonic elements slowly reveals its true colours, the beautiful two chord progression on the guitar moving the track into new tonal pastures, a beautiful subtle switch that is as bold as it is undeniably exciting. The track felt like it was building to this moment since time began, so to hear it reach its apex is a wonderful thing indeed. To finish up things, we have 'Sunset Years', and there is certainly time for one more roll of the energy vibes. The track begins suitably high paced, the texturally rich rhythm providing a base for the early 90s house flute to capture our attention and set the vibe purely on the collective sense of rhythm. The kick falls into play, as a delightful series of playful synths create the depth and the sense of place within the track. The washed out effects bring us through to the naturalness of the coast, as the keys start to build in intensity, the drums becoming even more full. The deep pad that shines through every now and again is all that is required, as this track is all about that relationship between the key lines and the beautifully balanced drumming patterns, and gives us one final experience that we won't soon forget from a record brimming with everything good about dance music.

This EP quite impressively reads like a full journey through the essence of a collective sound that has been honed and mastered. For only their second outing, Symptoms of Love have shown their credentials fully, on a record that cuts between the sensibilities and positive qualities of Balearic vibes, through to modern day characteristics that shine through their brilliant understanding of the placements of keys and drums, the bass giving over but never giving out, all wrapped up in the most infectiously emotive chordal arrangements you will ever have the good grace of hearing. What they come up with next is sure to be on par excellence. A stunning listen.

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