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S Crosbie – Dark Arts 01 review

Nothing is known about Dark Arts or the artist S Crosbie beyond the information stamped on the centre sleeve of the label’s first release. On first listen, each of the tracks featuring on Dark Arts 01 appear to have no connecting theme, but with each new visit a subtle concept is gradually revealed, and it’s one of natural, earthly sounds combined with unnerving and otherworldly textures. This connection pulls the entire EP together, although the fact remains each track works better individually rather than in the context of the whole record. The core essence of S Crosbie’s music has been stamped onto each jam, acting as a foundation on which to construct a varied take on house and techno.

Opening cut “Mid Blue”, dances the fine line between those genres. Techno aesthetics – plodding, sporadic bass and fear-inducing pads – combine with a house tempo and a classic, sharp snare drum. The music tugs you through a jungle as the hook slowly begins to creep out from a sticky rhythm. The breakdown only gives you a minor chance of survival, a glistening hope of escape before the crisp congas start to cut through the air.

“Broken Space” is a further amalgamation of sounds encompassing house and techno, while utilising a dancehall structured beat pattern. Crosbie has made “Broken Space” exactly that, using masses of space within the track to build anxiety while a variety of bleeping noises sound out through a galactic exploration. If there’s one thing that cheapens this track slightly it’s the inclusion of the plodding synth line, which doesn’t really sit well within the mix. This is a minor discrepancy, however, as Crosbie’s use of space, sound and texture keep you interested the whole way through, while an almost lackadaisical working of synthesisers, reluctantly working against each other, try to keep up with the marching beat.

“Restraint” offers more dancehall rhythm structures married with bleeping space sounds and reverberating percussive work. The pads in this track come straight from the mouths of dead stars floating in the black sky. The structure is wild and uncontained, a feral beast plodding through the galaxy, at times seemingly coming apart at the seams, but always managing to pull itself together. Drums drop away and come back, echo into the distance and then come blazing to the forefront again; a short but relentless, rapid-fire attack on the senses.

“Red Dust” closes out Dark Arts 01 with an off-beat bass line which continually knocks you over, working its counterpart in between the gaps, making each part playfully fight against one another before tying up the entire rhythm with some spectacular percussive work. At points it rides high on undulating bass notes, and at others swings low, riding the undercurrent of subtle open hi-hats and gentle textures.

Frank Mitchell