Koreless’s first single sounded like the work of someone who had already curtailed his ideas for a long time. Released in 2011, “4D“and its B side,”MTI”, Were elegantly stripped of the nebulous style known simply as post-dubstep: the drums were blippy, the lyricless vocals cut into digital ribbons. Unlike dubstep, a style based on excess – bass so deep it sucks all the oxygen out of the room, a reverb that blurs the boundaries of time – these songs were thin and muscular, their percussive sounds barely more. only bursts of brilliant tones, as if he had carved them out with the ticking of a digital metronome. The voice, a clean montage of hiccups and sighs, sounded like an avatar of human expression, as economical as it was elegant: an aria compressed into a handful of digitized brushstrokes.
It would have been easy to assume that Koreless, aka Welsh producer Lewis Roberts, had first painted himself in a corner – that there was nowhere to go but bigger. James Blake had already succeeded in making dubstep as light as grains of dust. The Field had reduced minimal techno to a vaporous canvas of acoustic samples. But Koreless spent the next few years proving his determination to make club music the language of electron microscopy. With the “2012”Lost in Tokyo, 2013 Yugen EP, and 2015’s “TT“/” Love, “he continued to zoom in further, until the music sounded like luminous pinpricks quivering in empty space. That didn’t mean it sounded cold:” TT ” , in particular, is as warm and lush as anything in the last decade of dance music. It just seems to have been splashed with a virtual pipette of vocal samples, one tiny pastel dot at a time. Then, like s ‘he had decided he couldn’t dig any further, Koreless seemed to disappear from sight.
In fact, Roberts spent his working days writing and producing for artists like FKA twigs and Rita Ora, when he wasn’t struggling with it. Agor, his first album, which comes 10 years after his first single. The first release under his own name in six years, Agor doesn’t bear much traces of Roberts’ banter with pop. Instead, it represents a new change to the old Koreless sound: bigger, fuller, and more enveloping, albeit assembled from tiny fragments. Like one of David Hockney’s Polaroid Collages, it is a mosaic that invites you to swim.
Roberts described the creation of the album in Sisyphean terms, calling it a “sick obsession,” and you can hear his effort in the details. He remains an extremely technical producer, a virtuoso of the cut-out waveform, and much of Agor is tantamount to a show of bravery of its mind-blowing montage. A few interstitial tracks are basically sketches to show a particularly crafty texture pattern, like fabric samples for the ears. “Hance” is built from brilliant percussive tones halfway between steel pans and pinball machines, with a rhythm that alternately speeds up and slows down. An equally nervous kinetic impulse drives “Frozen,” a Oneohtrix Point Never-style experience that plays the disjunction between archaic harpsichord sounds and the opalescent shimmer of virtual reality. The same sounds and techniques tend to run through the album, making it feel like an interconnected sequel. Roberts gives most of his attention to the human voice: shaving isolated syllables down to the width of a hair, then layering them in sync with equally infinitesimal synth and percussion tracks, so you have the impression of witnessing the ripple of molecules as they warm and cool.
But the album is less concerned with pixel-sized fireworks than great feelings. Roberts likes to stack his synths in thick, heavy clusters that buzz with harmonics, and he has a knack for punching chord change. Sometimes the emo gets carried away: things reach an early high on the two parts “White Picket Fence” and “Act (s)”, in which a rising, wordless soprano invokes the soundtrack at The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover. Here, and in a few other places on the album, Roberts leans a little too hard on the lever marked “pathos”; the sweet, sticky melody feels like a command rather than an invitation. This is one of the rare occasions where he draws his vocal melody in quick outline, but his pointillism is more convincing.
Koreless has always adopted an ambivalent attitude towards the dancefloor, and nowhere is this more evident than on Agor‘s two biggest hymns. Educated in the jerky syncopations of Robag Wruhme, Lorenzo Senni and Joy Orbison’s “Hyph Mngo, “Joy Squad”Layers floating tones onto the album’s one and exhilarating beat house. Yet this moment of rhythmic abandonment lasts less than a minute; the rest of the trail running time is spent on agonizing build-ups like a roller coaster that’s mostly a stomach-ache climb. On “Shellshock,” a barnstorming song in the vein of Sam Barker’s drummeless techno epics, Roberts repeatedly teases a climax, climbing to a peak and then pulling the rug. He did something similar on a recent remix of Caribou’s “Never Come Back”, turning a Suddenly in a dizzying subversion of expectations. These counterintuitive moments show how Roberts, in Koreless’s absence for six years, has largely abandoned the conventions of dance music in search of more elusive gain. At Agor, this will to surpass himself – combined with all his obsessive efforts – produces both visceral sensations and a real feeling.
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