Perhaps minimalism in house, its trendiness, ubiquity and then its inevitable fallout and counter-reaction, is far enough in the past that it’s started to sound fresh again. That is, after all, how these things work, isn’t it? The fact that our ears aren’t continuously assaulted by micro-edited loops as they were ten years ago means that the sound is unusual again, we can once more see it as mesmeric rather than bland. But it still takes a particularly fine artist to have us trawling back to a long-neglected genre. Japanese producer So Inagawa is just such a specimen, and on his debut LP for Cabaret, six tracks a year in the making, its easy to feel what was so captivating about the sub-genre in the first place.
There are no surprises on Integritithm. There is just infinite, mind-boggling elegance, a finesse that knows no impeccably textured ceiling. Each beat is a simple construction, a shuffling kick-clap-snare, light on its feet, with some minor variations throughout. Synths are glossy, playing like water across the surfaces of the tracks, while voices are present but only as half-heard whispers, creating a dream-like atmosphere where the intricacy of these tracks can luxuriously unravel.
These are lovingly-crafted tunes from the first listen, but Integritithm really requires a few spins and a careful ear to fully explore. The differences between the tunes are at first minor, but striking the deeper one listens. Aligned Square is a taut piece, neon synths and fluttering keys, an insistent vocal deep in the mix of the track’s second half keeping up the suspense. Meanwhile That Look adds a pinch of grit to the formula, its snares sharper, its kick hollowed and swung out. Backmasked vocals and odd spring-like noises add to the haunting effect of a ghost in the machine.
Largely, however, Inagawa occupies himself with warmer sounds. Reminder is a luscious highlight, a garbled vocal swept away by a swift synth tide, before the entrance of a fluttering, weightless piano line. The title track is almost noir-esque, equipped with expansive synth swells and fleeting jazzy melodies, while closer I Will Do It The Same Way’s featherweight drums are illuminated by a bright organ melody and more ambiguous muttering vocals. It all closes, fittingly, with a looping whisper. This is an album that refuses to shout. Instead, Integritithm seduces through its quietness and taste, rewarding detailed listeners with true house hypnosis.
Integritithm is out now on Cabaret Recordings, order a vinyl copy from Decks.
B2. Aligned Square.
D1. That Look.
D2. I Will Do It The Same Way