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Vakula – Saturday review

Ukrainian producer Vakula has been bubbling under for a few years now, with low key releases for Quintessentials and Uzuri. It was perhaps his contribution to the highly feted Firecracker EP series that elevated him to a new status. There’s an obvious cultish pedigree attached to the boutique Edinburgh imprint and the five tracks that formed his release demonstrated an upwards shift in the quality of Vakula’s productions that was more than worthy of such celebrated company.

Since that release Vakula has steadily built up a small but impressive canon of works for Under The Shade offshoot 3rd Strike, Anton Zap’s imperious Ethereal Sounds imprint and Andre Lodemann’s Best Works. Returning to the 3rd Strike label for the Saturday EP, it would appear collectively they have delivered their finest work to date. For the avid buyer of contemporary house records, this has everything. 3rd Strike have discarded with their established minimalist theme, enlisting the Nthcreative design agency to produce some striking sleeve art whilst musically Vakula keeps his end of the bargain.

There’s a special sheen that cloaks the four diverse productions whose inherent ear for melody grabs you immediately. The opening track “Touch” is truly sumptuous, progressing from a delicate piano centric house bump into waves of twisting introspective orchestration with a nonchalant ease that characterises Vakula’s production capabilities. Beneath all this is a crisp multi-layered rhythmic palette that sounds inherently live, which ensures there’s some room for dancefloor exposure despite the downtrodden jazziness that pervades.

Those pining for the more upwardly thrusting side to Vakula will find solace in the fuzzed out freeform beatdown of “Gospel Keyboards” with the twisting backdrop of twisting chords and a brilliantly rough sounding beat gradually engulfed by the increasingly bright flourishes of titular melody.

On the flip “Crossing” eeks out a glacial throb, all rusted jacking rhythms and frosted basslines, before taking a swift left turn into a delightful pattern of ivory swirls. The final ascent into fuzzed out acid melodies is a further example of Vakula’s willingness to shift between different ideas within the constraints of a single production. Proceedings end on the title track, another excursion into ethereal beatdown filled with jazzed melodic touches which kind of sounds like Anton Zap remixing the Cheers theme tune (that’s a good thing). With the recent announcement that Firecracker offshoot Unthank have entrusted Vakula with the responsibility of their second release, it seems our favourite Ukrainian since Mila Kunis is definitely on an upwards trajectory which is fully deserved.

Tony Poland