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Helium Robots – Jarza review

Sometimes, an artist’s career can stall inexplicably. That certainly seems to have happened to producer Ewan Wilmott, who made his vinyl debut on Andy Blake’s sadly defunct Dissident imprint way back in 2008. The two tracks he released on the label, “Metallic Dawn” and “Long Lost”, hinted at great things. Variously touching on smacked-out deep house, vintage synth-core and hard electronic disco, they largely went ignored.

This 12” for Running Back – another label run by a man with inspired A&R skills, Gerd Janson – is Wilmott’s first release since. With an album also lined up for release later in the year, it seems the little-known producer has been biding his time. If the two original tracks here are anything to go by, it should be a special album. The most striking thing about “Crepitation” and “Jarza” is just how fresh and different they sound. Wilmott’s vintage synth-laden production touches on many different musical strands – deep-house, minimal wave, downtempo, IDM, electronica and Italo, for starters – but doesn’t quite sound like any of them. It’s a rare skill.

Opener “Crepitation” is perhaps the most obvious highlight. It cranks and bubbles its way through six minutes of IDM-goes-disco oddness, somehow managing to sound both thrillingly cutting edge and lovingly familiar. If Autechre (circa Amber, rather than their obtuse later material) sat down and tried to make early 80s prog disco, it would probably sound like this. “Jarza”, on the other hand, doffs its cap to early deep house – check Wilmott’s use of Larry Heard-ish piano motifs – and bright ‘n’ breezy Balearic disco. Yet it again sounds like neither, instead coming on all warm, fuzzy and dewy-eyed.

Then there’s the small matter of the two Theo Parrish remixes. While not quite stealing Wilmott’s thunder, the Detroit DJ/producer does his best to turn “Jarza” on its head. While the original oozes sun-baked positivity, Parrish’s two Translations (he doesn’t do remixes, after all) are squeamishly intense, sturdily bottom-heavy and devilishly left-of-centre. He does his usual bang-up job utilizing only minimal elements of the original (in this case some of those delicious vintage synths), adding all manner of hypnotic percussive elements and foreboding melodies. In truth, they’re nowhere near as hard-hitting as the beautiful original, but they are very, very good. What’s more, they take “Jarza” to a murky new place, giving the EP the perfect balance between dark and light.

Matt Anniss