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Active Surplus: Active Surplus

"Another essential release in the Pacific Rhythm
catalogue and a reminder that Toronto doesn’t
need the conjunction 'but' in 2020"

I was called out a few months ago, in a now deleted Tweet by Ciel, for a review I wrote about Toronto’s rising Cosmic JD. What (rightly!) irked Ciel was the fact that I started the review with the sort of second city bashing all too common to those of us living in Toronto – a reactive preamble of, “Well Toronto isn’t Montreal or Vancouver, but…

The fact is that Toronto has a rich and storied dance music history that, thanks to Ciel and a host of others, is enjoying another turn in the 4/4 limelight. The latest from duo Evan Vincent and Ian Syrett as Active Surplus is another exciting entry in this latest chapter.

The A-Side is an excellent update of the Pacific Rhythm blueprint. ‘Yaye‘ has all the typical elements we expect from a Pacific Rhythm record. There is a slight swing to the closed hi-hat, a groovy bassline, and even some pads in the song’s final third. But there are also plenty of new things too: the vocal sample that leads the track, for one, wouldn’t be totally out of place on a Dan Snaith record.

There are also the faintest hints of Toronto’s concrete skyline: a sample from what could be a car alarm is pitched low in the mix and the rising pops of acid give the track the whiffs of urban decay. ‘Ambrosia’ has a similar feel. Sure, we get the flutter of chords that call to mind digesting an edible under fog-draped redwoods, but the percussion is tougher and the melody just a bit meaner than other Pacific Rhythm records.

Although less biting, ‘Meera’ is the densest track on the record. Melancholic and plaintive, the rich sound design gives it a feeling of urgency amplified by the driving skatting of the vocal.  ‘One Beyond’ is only slightly less compelling. The chords, the plucked lead, and the whispers of various woodwind instruments all work well together, but it is the least memorable track. This is really a minor critique. ‘Active Surplus’ is another essential release in the Pacific Rhythm catalogue and a reminder that Toronto doesn’t need the conjunction ‘but’ in 2020.

TRACKLIST

1. Yaye
2. Ambrosia
3. One Beyond
4. Meera