It would be fair to say that UK electronic music is currently in a state of happy confusion. Creative sparks are flying every which way, yielding plenty of exciting sounds but little in the way of a coherent scene. This suits Subeena just fine. The London-based Italian, though ostensibly a product of the dubstep explosion, has consistently sidestepped that pigeon hole; not least in the A&Ring of her fledgling label, Opit. Alongside vocal-led efforts of her own, the imprint’s tiny roster includes US eclecticist Milyoo and remix work from the mercilessly leftfield Egyptrixx.
Not such a surprise, then, that Subeena’s latest find has its roots as much in contemporary jazz as the lineage of electronic music. Circle Traps is formed of two members of the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet – a sax-led outfit whose blissed-out harmonies and delicate sonorities have won them fans in unexpected places – aided by a friend whose ownership of a studio fuels the project. And their debut EP, emerging as it does from the potentially hazardous no-man’s-land of ‘crossover music’, is an unexpected treat.
Opener ‘Fjord’ sets the tone. Hazy chords and warm sub bass drift across the stereo field, making for perfect headphone listening. A 2-step-ish beat, sunken into the mix, pushes things along; though, as with ‘Mirrors and Monuments’, it feels a little inflexible when compared to the rich, organic textures surrounding it. Meanwhile, ‘Bo! Symbol’ injects some angst into proceedings, with metallic shrieks and rustling, twisted drum loops reminiscent of ‘Feral’, Radiohead’s recent take on the UK dancefloor.
The highlight, though, is ‘Perspex, Glass’, sitting somewhere between a slow-mo house jam and the more starry-eyed jazz excursions of Flying Lotus. Fragmentary vocal offerings from Cornelia give the whole thing a rare fragility, and the restraint on show here is far beyond what you’d expect from a debut recording.
To cap things off, Subeena turns in a typically stompy remix of ‘Bo! Symbol’, demonstrating that only the lightest touch is needed to make these tracks ready for the ‘floor. What Circle Traps do may not be dance music, but their subtlety of touch and adeptness of sound design is sure to win them fans from that quarter, as well as many others.