Friday, 20 November 2009

Apple Pips Autumn: Al Tourettes & Instra:mental

Laurie Osborne’s Apple Pips imprint seems to have been operating in fits and starts lately. During the summer, no sooner had Brackles’ long awaited Get A Job/Lizards 12” hit the shelves than the label’s seventh installment arrived, pitting a second Appleblim-Ramadanman collaboration on an unsuspecting world. ‘Justify’ was the definition of a slow-burner, hiding its riches in the label’s least dancefloor-aimed release. Yet its smooth transition between rough and smooth - the opening crackle of staccato synth suddenly opening wide to a flood of aquatic melody that drenched the track in nocturnal ambience and more than a hint of foreboding – offered a glimpse into Osborne’s mindset.

Never aiming merely to provide the next big floor hit, the Apple Pips roster thus far has staged excursions ever deeper into the crossover realms between UK bass and gaseous, white-noise infused house and techno. This autumn’s two releases follow the same set precedent, with a minor detour in the shape of Instra:mental’s quite startling ‘Leave It All Behind’.

Pips008 is the turn of sometime Appleblim co-producer Al Tourettes, who turns in a pair of incredibly odd but strangely compulsive tracks that straddle the lines between dubbed-out Bristol business and the percussive whirlwinds of labelmate Torsten Profrock. In fact, the closest comparison here is Profrock’s work as T++, all dense, mechanistic whirrs and melody generated the interplay of a host of separate mechanical components.

It’s not exactly what you’d describe as floor-friendly – on ‘Dodgem’ the kick drum seems to go out of its way to form an awkward, stumbling rhythm more suited to falling down a set of stairs than dancing with any level of grace – but compulsive in its sheer complexity. The same is true of ‘Sunken’, each individual piece of the puzzle has been placed so deliberately that listening requires an impressive feat of concentration.

On Pips009, Instra:mental follow the stellar ‘Watching You’ with a pair of more experimental oddities that take the duo further than ever from their roots at drum ‘n’ bass tempo. I reviewed the record in full last month for Sonic Router, but it really is an astonishing piece of work. Nowhere near as immediately accessible as ‘Watching You’, but equally rewarding, ‘Leave It All Behind’ sets their distinctive vocoder work over a swirling 4/4 backdrop. On the flip, ‘Forbidden’ is a tough-as-nails exploration of austere techno/dubstep territory, bristling with barely resolved aggression and reining in their typical displays of emotion on a tight leash, so as not to let the track's elastic tension tear itself apart entirely.

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