Picture this: you’re lying in bed in the early hours, drifting in and out of sleep. Your ecstatic next door neighbour, who happens to be a dance music fanatic, has just discovered a gold mine of rave tapes online, and the faint sound of ’92 is drifting in through your half-open window. Now, this doesn’t necessarily sound like the most restful of nights, but believe me, there’s contentment in this semi-conscious no man’s land. Resigned to the half deep daze, knowing full well that you’ll eventually get some shut-eye, the jolt of those distant drum machines is actually quite enjoyable. Suddenly you’re tapping along to the beat. Suddenly there’s no need for sleep.
That should give you the general atmosphere. “Of what?” you might ask. The feel of the first track on Oleg Buyanov’s ‘Height Difference’, the newest addition to the Gost Zvuk catalogue. ‘Sparks From The Eyes‘, the opener, hits that strange spot between relaxation and urgency. The luminous pads provide the base level ambience, while the high pitched hardcore style stabs that rain down at random are every inch as urgent. And, most crucially, this is a straightforward record. A single track manifesto, if there ever was one, on the importance of simplicity.
There’s a certain level of expectation when you’ve delivered probably the strongest release to date for Gost. Everything about “True White“, released two years ago, was unusual. The jagged experimentalism, the tape saturated jazz samples, the weirdness, the purpose: from track to track you rarely knew what was around the corner – yet when it hit you, it hit hard.
Drafted in for a full album this time, Buyanov has tweaked his approach slightly, smoothing out the cracks of his old sound. Whether or not that’s necessary is an entirely different matter: the cracks were a fundamental part of the appeal of “True White”, but this, his new contribution represents something less immediately impulsive – and undoubtedly less dark.
A lot can be said for two perfectly paired chords. This is a blueprint echoed from the initial track to the following one, ‘Cavefunk’, which rides a devastatingly simple deep house groove from start to finish. While it’s as good a track as any, it’s on the flip where things really take flight. Resembling the fuzzy, coarse sound on True White, the tape doused tones of Shuttle Bus emerge from the shadows, featuring hip hop leaning drum programming that wouldn’t be out of place on a PG Sounds untitled – or any of the more downtempo SUED releases for that matter.
Still, broadly speaking, everything feels a lot more streamlined on Height Difference. The Moscow man seems satisfied to lock into a rhythm see it out, with the best example being Pensia Club – a track, which has a Jeremy Underground kind of bounce to it. Though it’s polished in comparison to ‘Shuttle Bus’, delicious disco bass hits and French house style filters are enough to allow for a nineties throwback. The playful ping of what sounds like an antique cash register adds further zest where necessary.
On a similarly slick tip, ‘Somnenie‘ has an almost Shed-like level of certainty about it. It’s so far removed from the producer’s old sound, that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an entirely different person at the controls. The new direction does have its pluses though: the dubbed out chords and pulsing sub bass provide genuine head nodding material.
And yet the record still feels most at home when things are a little more loose. It’s ‘Contour Lines‘ that best sums this up, with Buyanov’s trademark shuffling percussion cutting through. Here the producer doesn’t seem to have done any of the excess pruning, any of the extra legwork. Like a rusty bracket rattling violently in the intensity of an earthquake, ready to come unhinged at any second, the track holds firm despite it’s rough style. It’s pure, unadulterated, rough-round-the-edges power.
The title track – and last on the album – follows suit in its ruggedness. It’s another blinding example of where Buyanov’s strengths lie: in unpredictable, slightly offbeat production. Acoustic drum samples swirl forth and back, fleshing out euphoric chord patterns that cap the record off on the downbeat. It serves as a reminder that if there are cracks, let them show. The whole thing feels more human, after all.
Height Difference is out now, order a copy from Juno.
A1: Искры из глаз
A2: Пещерный фанк
B1: Автобус 116
B3: Пенсия клуб
B4: Дрим пауза
C1: Разговор ни о чем
C2: Контурные линии
D1: Сао Ра
D2: Тектоник плит
D4: Перепад высот