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Strategy – Boxy Music review

Hovering on the fringes of the electronic music melting pot, Paul Dickow’s Strategy moniker has been busy existing in its own headspace, caught between the lopsided vision of experimentation and the alluring thump of the dancefloor, without ever drawing too much attention. His releases on Orac especially reached for the addictive groove of disco, and then artfully spliced it with the fractured edits of micro house in a way that seems so canny in today’s climate as to stupefy the relative anonymity of the 12”s.

That under-the-radar platform Dickow inhabits may be shortly vacated as he crests his head up to appear on 100% Silk. The interesting evolution of Amanda Brown’s label has become somewhat difficult to keep up with as release after release surges forth, but there’s plenty of reward to be found by pausing on Boxy Music. Five fully realized tracks see Dickow digging into an artful world of sound, diverse in its sources and rich in character.

“Skanking Stabs” revolves around a dubby refrain which persists throughout, while thick globules of heavily treated synthesisers contort around it. It’s a dense sound that blurs your audible focus through sheer detail, without ever sounding contrived. On a wholly other tip, “Feel The Earth” kicks off on a seemingly rough garage bump before sweet-natured chimes and bells ring out as a perfectly natural-sounding foil.

As you might gather from the stilted descriptions, there is a feeling of convolution to the Strategy sound which might put off some DJs. However, it’s not all dizzying elements, as opening track “Bolly Valve 2000” proves with its rock solid groove and grainy synth stabs. That said, one of the key elements that feeds in to the mix is a haunting pan flute, so there’s always room for something untoward.

It’s no mean feat to craft direct and punchy dance music that can draw on myriad styles and influences in the space of a few minutes, but somehow Dickow makes it sound like disparate elements from opposite cultures were always meant to be heard together; the perfect glue for the fragmented world of sound he lives in.

Oli Warwick