EP Review: ATM001 Mag0 - Odes Ep / ANTAM Records
- Published on Thursday, 11 January 2018 09:55
With the current popularity of electro-, IDM-, 90s- and whatever else-influenced minimal music, it’s hard to keep ahead of the tide with all the new labels popping up — and harder yet to separate those truly worth keeping an eye on from those merely trying to cash in on a trend. Antam Records, though, seems to belong to the former category. Firstly because it’s the label arm of BinarySound who hosted DJ Koolt, Riccardo, Audri, Le Loup or Zendid and Distrikt, the Parisian promoters who brought to the French capital the likes of Barac, John Dimas, HardWorkSoftDrink or TC80 — on remix duty on this first EP — along many of the French scene’s rising stars.
That’s for the nascent label’s pedigree. But their first signee, Mag0, has some good credentials of his own — and is testament to the label’s will to dig deeper than most. Although until now off my (admittedly fallible) radar, the Italian producer appears to be a regular at Veniceberg, the Verona venue that supplies the Northern Italian city in all things minimal, and whose label arm has released a string of quality EPs over the past two years. As this record shows, the club and its residents offered Mag0 a good education. Mag0, has some good credentials of his own. Although until now off my (admittedly fallible) radar, the Italian producer appears to be a regular at Veniceberg, the Verona venue that supplies the Northern Italian city in all things minimal, and whose label arm has released a string of quality EPs over the past two years. As this record shows, the club and its residents offered mag0 a good education.
All the charm with this music lies in the balance between out-there oddness and dancefloor functionalism. Too many producers seem to add a few token bleeps and beeps to demonstrate their supposed quirkiness, or go full-on on a weird binge that ends up sounding forced. But as soon as the kick returns after the one-minute mark on “Ode to Venice”, you can tell that Mag0 has nailed this balance. The track is peppered with drops, and with each one elements come and go, keeping the general sense of oddness interesting — nagging synths here, bubbling burps there; it sounds like the digestive system of a robot in full action, with a hell of a lot of groove on top of it.
“Ode to 90’s” is just as playful, and the funkiest of the lot thanks to a sprightly 2-note pattern dancing around a synth gone awry and a stamping bassline, while “Ode to Dino” is meatier, but retains an improvisatory tinge in its mid-range. This is how mag0 manages to keep his tracks interesting. It seems like the producer is always about to lose control of his machines, but he’s only letting them go loose before reasserting his mastery with a well-timed drop. Synths suddenly detuning or going far into the high-end give the brain something to focus on, while the low-end does the rest of the job. And with patterns unexpectedly changing track or ad-libbing like in the second half of “to Dino”, these tunes sound, at their best, like jam sessions between virtuoso aliens — a bunch of scruffy, nerdy, stoner aliens, that is. Of course, we’ve paradoxically come to expect this supposed unexpectedness from producers dabbling in this genre; but once again, it’s his sense of balance that sets mag0 apart from the mass: his weirdness is not too much, and seems to come from a sincere place.
The pick of the bunch is TC80’s remix. The Berlin-based French producer and Sequalog boss, coming off a breakthrough year, lets his experience speak by opting for a less flamboyant approach. Whereas mag0’s tracks are bouncy, his is reduced — an invitation to the curious listener, rather than an interpellation. Ghostly synths gleam in the background, teasing you to follow them while keeping safely out of reach. When they disappear mid-section, you’ve already fallen down the rabbit hole at their pursuit, and find yourself in the midst of a gorgeous soundscape that retains the original’s lively atmosphere, but filtered through a haze. This time, the UFO that is Antam’s logo flew to a misty Jurassic-like planet with thick air and bubbling underwater volcanoes. By the end of the track, the ethereal synths return and gently guide you back to reality. Back to your starting point, slightly dazed, the stroll was worth it.
All in all, it’s a well-rounded EP that proves there is still much creativity within this scene; that even a tired lexicon — the science-fiction references that adorn the record, the throwbacks to electronic music’s past, and all the quirky sounds — can work magic in the right authors’ hands. The EP has ealry support from Voigtmann, Dj Koolt, Zendid, Yakine, Lamache and Niff. More importantly perhaps, it lets us expect the best both from Antam and Mag0, two welcome newcomers to the scene. Indeed, we’re already told that a second release from another Italian producer is in the works for the label. I for one am keeping my eyes peeled.
“Odes” will be out end of January.