On the second release from its remix imprint VR, Berlin’s Vakant label comes with the goods, turning out what might be its most far-out release to date – and at the same time, its most punishingly effective. Going head to head, Glasgow’s Alex Smoke and Paris’ Tolga Fidan tackle each other’s tracks, twisting up knotty rhythms and gauzy electro-acoustic sounds into a battered syntax that expresses one thing: move. This is the real freaky-deeky, and the season’s dancefloors will never again be the same.
A-side: Alex Smoke, “Neds (Tolga Fidan Remix)”
Relative newcomer Tolga Fidan outdoes himself in his rework of Alex Smoke’s “Neds,” expanding on the psychedlic sound design of his Now I´m Weak EP and demonstrating a rapidly developing structural and rhythmic sophistication. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t hear a little bit of Luciano in the way Fidan stretches out his slow builds and sudden drops, but this is no imitation. Creeping 8-bit drums and understated Latin percussion lay out unhinged rhythms that stretch towards the horizon, paving the way for oily, snake-charming synth pads, thunderclaps of bass and a mournful clarinet that pipes up only to disappear in a haze. Cycling staccato blasts reference the cell-based minimalism of Philip Glass, repetitive and hypnotic. The whole thing is a perpetual field of tension that grips you tight and refuses to let you go, propelling you towards the edge of the unknown.
B-side: Tolga Fidan, “Ilsa (Alex Smoke Remix)”
Fidan’s is a hard act to follow, but Alex Smoke – known for his releases on Soma and Vakant, where he also appears as Quixote – steps up with a remix of Fidan’s “Ilsa” that’s every bit as adventurous, and no less compromising a crowd-mover. Kicking off with dry, sandpapery percussion – woodblocks, shakers, hissing exhaust pipes – it’s quickly marched forward by a lone flute and high-tuned, whipcracking toms. High-plains drifting, the track takes you along on a cinematic journey that opens up onto exotic vistas and alien melodies – windstorms and whippoorwills, dust devils and dry riverbeds. But lest Smoke’s poetic inclinations get the best of him, he drops a squiggly acid bassline to keep the music grounded. By the time it’s all over, Smoke scales back everything but those brittle drums from the introduction; it feels like waking from a fever dream.