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Wetman/Sword of Thorns - Apt E Vol 2 (Apt E, 2020)

Delicious cuts of destructive junglist riddims and juke stompers make up this excellent 2nd release from the Seattle based party series.

It's always wonderful to see when artists push through the sensibilities of genres past glories, and build it up into something new and fresh. For the past few years, there has been an ever renewing interest in electronica's rich history, with the focus really aimed at the 90s in particular. What made this era so beloved, by those who lived through it and for those with a current fascination, is the vast array of variations on established themes, the freedoms on producers to further their ambitions and achieve their wildest musical fantasies, and the care and attention to the small things, that has allowed the music to retain its timeless appeal. But in what way do the contemporary generation do in regards to harnessing all this goodness? well, some throw in the odd reference, the breakbeat here, the acid line there, and it all feels a bit warm and nostalgic. But then you have those who really connect with it, they not just place the small references, but their outputs embody the ideals and values of the music from the past. They relive how these tunes made people react, dance and feel in the clubs, the burning energy that came from constant evolutions, and they place that very much within the meanings of their music. Thus, in their productions you always experience the journey, where the amen breaks and high tempo beats interact with all the melodic works on top, its never straight up but weaved together perfectly. It embodies the atmospheres of clubs gone past, where the scene revelled in the diversity of music on show, condensing the emotions and vibes on show to give us the most engaging and immersive workouts around. The sound of the underground embodied, put to wax, and we all benefit as a result.

Apt E have been on the scene for a fair while now, and have recently been looking to conjure up the magic of their parties onto vinyl. Based in Seattle, the collective have tearing it up in their home city and beyond, with their online mix series a wonderful representation of a city with a fantastic night life vibe. All genres under the sun get a moment to shine, with each mix a real winner in terms of mood setting and atmospheric excellence. It seemed only natural to make the jump into releasing their own records, which they achieved last year with the first Apt E volume. Featuring Flora FM, Eve Defy, and 'nohup', it was a triumphant celebration of breaks and bass, with tonnes of emotive textures thrown in for good measure. The Eve Defy cut was moody and frantic, Flora Fm's tune a rhythmic stomper, and 'nohup' epic 'Substance P' track weaved from out there electronics through electro and finally arriving at peak time junglist beats. As debuts go, it was a real winner, putting the label in good stead for a long and successful discography to emerge. So now we arrive at their latest, a split EP between junglist magician Wetman and newcomer Swords of Thorns, who makes their debut on this record. A EP that delivers not just on its absolute mastery of high octane beats, but from its flows through varying scenes and musical constructions, where the tunes feel alive through their vibrancy and switches in context. Its a worldie, and we can't wait to take a dip.

Up first comes Wetman with the track 'I can't Stop', and we begin with the filtered soul sample moving around in the distance. The sample is quickly joined by the fast paced beats, as the track immediately opens itself up, the drums now becoming very full indeed. The spaces left between the drums give this real sense of grandeur, before the breakdown leads into the chopped up rhythms, the vocals soaring higher and higher. The bass note lights a fire in the heart of the beats, as the drumming patterns move with such pace, creating a unreal feeling from within. The track has slowly become more and more hypnotic, swirling around our heads as the MC joins in giving over pure junglist riddims, as the glitchy keys add some lovely emotive qualities to the track. The tune keeps building up then subtracting, constantly moving around and about, really evoking that frantic energy we are all familiar with on the dance floor. Vivid, magical. Up next comes a change of direction, with Swords of Thorns and their track 'Misidentified'. The track begins with some straight up jukey footworky rhythms, the repeating vocal sample interlaced over the top of the beats, as the guitar esq stab floats on top. The track gracefully moves through the notions, switching things up between the long drawn out rhythmic sections and then moving into the narrative heavy sample bit. The sample concerns about a man being labelled as the ass man, and its all quite hilarious, adding in that quirky humour that permeates through a lot of footwork tracks. It adds a really nice element to the track, creating a dramatic contrast between the proper workouts and the breakdowns, with a lot of speaking creating once again this sense of the track feeling alive. Real shit.

Up next comes Wetman with the track 'Wine', that takes the pace down a notch. We begin in a full and lush environment, with the densest layering of keys yet, creating a sense of calm before it all kicks off inevitably. And sure enough, we get greeted with the purest junglist rhythms going, that build us up immediately. The sense of calm truly eradicated, the riddims swerving and grouping with the kind of bravado that one would expect of something in full control. The beat slowly unravels slightly, moving through a few more sequences before allowing the backing elements to come back in, before it goes all footworky on us, the high paced vocal sample bringing the beat along with it for the wildest of rides. As this part ends, the rhythm recedes into its most primal form, softly becoming just a singular pulse, allowing the vocal sample to do its thing. But, as per usual, the riddim flies back in with a real vengeance, menacingly toying with us as it gives us one final moment to get locked in. To finish up proceedings, Swords of Thorn serve up their final cut 'I'm Still Dancing', and we begin with another mood setter. The guitar sample loops over the slow and steady drum beat, as the vocals move into the view, the track never quite needing to move on from its current form. This one might be the pick of the bunch, a beautiful and graceful slow burner that provides so much depth to its emotive character. The deep welling pads in the backdrop, the slight clicks that permeate through, the longing guitar that fades in and out of view at al the right moments. Its pretty masterfully done, a track that goes beyond its footwork foundations and touches on so many other facts of electronica. The tender interplays, the repeated elements that work so well, the incredible rhythms that underpin it all. Absolute class.

Well then, that was a smash hit. Over four cuts, the two producers go toe to toe with each other, vibing alongside and crafting music and tones that resonates on so many more levels than just the club. Here we see a breakdown of these two beloved genres, taking apart their innards and really going for it in terms of expressive beat progressions, the clever usage of synths and melodic elements, and the vocals that connect us even deeper with the deep music on display. A record for the club, a record for the walk, a record for the reflective days. Brilliant.

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