Prequel – Polite Strangers
The recent release of Oceans Apart, a compilation put together by Cut Copy, documented the current strength of a music scene in Melbourne that’s been building for some time. It featured a veritable who’s who of Victorian talent, from Fantastic Man, Nike Delta and Bell Towers, to Michael Ozone, Andras & Oscar and Tornado Wallace, and whilst the absence of boogie revivalists Inkswel, Benny Badge and the rest of the Hot Shot Sounds crew was notable, this omission was balanced out by a range of tracks from little-known or previously unheard artists. There’s a suspicion – confirmed by this 12” on Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section International imprint – that there’s even more previously untapped talent in the city just waiting to be unleashed.
There’s little information available about Prequel, aside from his real name (Jamie Lorusso-Zyskind) and his status as a “Melbourne newcomer”. A quick Google search brings few results (aside from his own sparse website and social media profiles), and Rhythm Section International hasn’t provided much in the way of concrete facts, either. Whatever Lorusso-Zyskind’s background, Polite Strangers is an assured, confident and largely magical debut. First and foremost, Lorusso-Zyskind deals in deep house, but it’s not the kind of dry, formulaic fare that makes a mockery of the sound’s far-sighted roots and luscious heritage. The most obvious comparisons are with the jazz-soaked deepness of Detroit (both straight-up floor-filling fare and the ultra-deep hypnotism of beatdown) – think Theo Parrish, Moodymann, Alton Miller and Malik Aston – though Prequel’s productions are a little sunnier, looser and hazier than that. Some may also hear the influence of deep instrumental hip-hop, or the angular, jazz-wise swing of classic West London broken beat.
However you categorize the four tracks, the results are spellbinding, with a rich vein of musicality – think twinkling keys, immersive electronics, lolloping basslines and fluid percussion programming – coursing through the heart of the EP. Opener “Searching” is a great case in point. There are plenty of jazz-friendly elements – a rubbery live bass refrain, twinkling chords, George Benson style lazy jazz guitars and toasty, fireside keys, for starters – but also a yearning, barely audible vocoder vocal and beats that sit somewhere between experimental hip-hop, broken house and straight-up beatdown. In many ways, it defies easy categorization; regardless, it’s a superb piece of mood-enhancing music – an effortlessly sun-kissed stroll through Lorusso-Zyskind’s expansive musical world.
Elsewhere, the deep house influence is more apparent, even if the beats remain pleasingly loose and off-kilter. Check, for example, the rolling, ultra-deep chords, dusty music box melodies, shuffling shakers and pronounced drum machine handclaps of “Fidelio”, or the sub-aquatic synthesizers, woozy chords, tumbling pianos and metronomic, Motor City pulse of “Michele”. The latter track is particularly poignant, feeling like a string-drenched tribute to a lost love or far-away family member.
Arguably best of all, though, is “Test Dream”, whose hypnotic kicks, soft-focus cymbals and crunchy handclaps come smothered in just the right amount of attractive vinyl crackle. While the production is undeniably clean, it boasts serious depth – a feeling enhanced by Lorusso-Zyskind’s looped keys, twinkling electronics and light-touch production. Midway through it breaks down into a lolloping, early Ninja Tune-era jazz break, which then works in unison with the deft deep house groove to superb effect. It’s an imaginative, surprising twist, but one in keeping with the Melbournian’s ultra-deep approach.
B2. The Test Dream