Jacob Korn – EP1
Between 2009 and 2012, Jacob Korn could do no wrong. The Dresden native started his recording career in fine style, delivering a 12” for Running Back – “I Like The Sun” – that blurred the boundaries between hypnotic deep house and hazy Balearica. Over the next three years, his productivity soared, with releases on Left of the Dial, Dolly and Permanent Vacation enhancing his reputation further.
Yet it was through his association with hometown imprint Uncanny Valley that he really made waves. After contributing single tracks to their early split EPs, he was finally granted a 12” of his own in 2011, the fluid “She”. In 2012, he followed this up with an impressive debut album, You & Me – the label’s first foray into the full-length format – in which he collaborated with a dizzying array of producers from Dresden and beyond. It was arguably one of the finest house albums of 2012, and cemented his reputation as a producer capable of pushing deep house in thrilling new directions whilst retaining an eye on the dancefloor.
Since then, he’s been eerily silent, save for occasional remixes and the Larry Heard-goes-techno throb of “Der Don” on Uncanny Valley’s superb UV20 compilation. He’s been hammering the DJ and live circuit, has expanded his studio and – according to the press release accompanying this comeback single – has amassed a considerable amount of new music. Still, given his productivity it’s still a surprise that he’s taken this long to deliver a new EP, especially given his blossoming career and rising reputation. Either way, EP1 is a welcome comeback. It sees him continue to take deep house in different directions, delivering a quartet of tracks that variously doff an imaginary cap to rubbery punk-funk, African highlife records, cosmic disco, new age house and, of course, Chicago jack. It’s a mark of Korn’s versatility and production skills that such eclecticism actually makes sense; there’s nothing piecemeal or hit-and-miss about it.
Korn begins in typically bold fashion, melding industrial-strength drum machine rhythms, ear catching, techno-style cymbals and a foreboding analogue bassline. Yet it’s when the track’s standout feature – a sun-baked highlife guitar riff – drops around a minute in that “Eisladen” really gets going. Its addition, along with seemingly incessant 808 handclaps and some sparse electronic melodies, transforms the track into an underground summer anthem in waiting. The cut that follows, “Arzt im Praktikum”, couldn’t be more different. Featuring an enticing combination of drum machine kicks and loose, live percussion, the action revolves around a driving, punk-funk style bassline and throbbing, low-end electronics. Wait a little longer and the track’s killer hook – a sharp rave riff, created using what appears to be a cheap digital synthesizer – flits into view, whipping the track into a frenzy of flailing limbs and squinting faces. If ESG, the Forgemasters and Carl Craig made a record together, it would probably sound like this.
Things take an unlikely turn again on the flip, where bassist Phillip Oertel contributes a brilliant walking bassline to the disco-tinged “Fahrt Durch Tal”. Compared to much of Korn’s work, it’s a particular smooth composition, with Oertel’s bassline underpinning a warm, stargazing fusion of spacey synths, dreamy freestyle vocals and twinkling electronics. It’s kind of like a deep house producer’s take on nu-disco, but with a warm, loose analogue feel that makes it far more attractive than your average nu-disco jam. In fact, describing it as nu-disco would be doing it a disservice; it’s far more mature and lovingly-crafted than that.
The EP’s final moment, “Kokusnusss”, is also arguably its finest. Certainly, it’s Korn’s most complex and adventurous production for some time. There’s some more African influence in the clipped guitars and glassy-eyed melodies, and arguably echoes of Steve Reich’s marimba-heavy compositions. Yet the heavy, acid-flecked electronics – reminiscent of early bleep techno in parts – and clanking drum machine percussion give it a heavy dancefloor feel. It offers, like much of Korn’s work, the perfect balance between ear-catching melodies, warm deep house textures and good old-fashioned dancefloor grunt.
2. Arzt im Praktikum
3. Fahrt durch Tal feat. Phillip Oertel