Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Martin Kemp [Blunted Robots]

There must be somethin' in the water round at the ol' Kemp family place. Brackles’ production trajectory over the past year has been quirky enough – the progression between the stop-start technoid dynamics of early track ‘Glazed’ and the dazzling neon hues of his recent remix of Crystal Fighters’ ‘I Love London’ couldn’t have been more dramatic – but if anything his brother has managed to outdo him on the dancefloor chemistry front.

And chemistry it is – ill-judged Spandau Ballet jokes aside, Martin Kemp’s production is pure gold. At this point, it's less an art than a science. There were hints in the warped aura and staggering gait of ‘No Charisma’, but the pair of tracks on his second Blunted Robots release see him do things with percussion that simply shouldn’t work in a dancefloor environment. UK funky’s commitment to tribalism is turned inside out on ‘After The Night’, each snare hit landing at precisely the opposite place than expected, lending a coarse sense of unpredictability that ramps the track’s tension to breaking point. Combined with the sinogrime-inspired minimalism of the track’s main melody it’s disorienting but relentlessly propulsive.

‘Aztec’ takes the previous track’s melodic Orientalism and runs with it; but instead of pushing ever-forward it expands laterally, building layer upon layer of bleeps and serrated hi-hats into an odd skanking rhythm. It remains almost impossibly supple though, contorting its stop-start dynamics into any number of geometric shapes over its six-minute length. Both tracks remain mysterious even after a huge number of listens (one of the main reasons this review is a few weeks late), but either way the diffuse yet hugely energetic nature of Kemp’s percussion is fast becoming a trademark.

And as if any more evidence was required, his remix of Royal T’s ‘1 Up’ is positively labyrinthine. Stabs of the original’s harsh motif burst out of the mix, shrouded in a whirl of elastic drum hits that combine to give the dizzying impression that you’ve either lost your marbles or ended up on a seriously perverse mind trip – and one that finds its resolution in dancing like your nerves are on fire. As far as these ears are concerned, the four tracks he’s officially released have already eclipsed his brother’s back catalogue (and that’s no mean feat). If there’s any justice, 2010 will be his year.

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