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Karen Gwyer – Bouloman EP

Over time the layers and layers that comprise Karen Gwyer’s work seem to be getting thicker and denser still, pushing away from the airy accessibility of her Needs Continuum debut and towards a deeper, darker recess that cites Low Jack, other Opal Tapes artists, and harder forms of techno in general as its influence even as it wriggles away. 2014’s New Roof might be the most remarkable and accessible result of these interactions, a push away from using her voice as a leading instrument and into synth-focused elongated expressions with two tracks ‘Lay Claim to My Grub’ and ‘Missisissipippi’ each pushing a Villalobosian 17 minutes.

Karen Gwyer - Bouloman EP
Karen Gwyer
Bouloman EP
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There was also a slow developmental drift where tides ebb and flow and a larger shape takes form. It diverted the notions and suggestions of pop whilst retaining Needs Continuum neat ability to reward the listener based on the attention it’s given, often zoning between isolated dance music and a background effervescence depending upon perspective.

The last year has seen record label Nous work with more than a handful of artists focused on similar atmospheres and elemental transitions in their practice, and it is quickly developing into a great home for ‘techno with something else too’. Gwyer follows trips from Call Super and O. Xander (who she remixed to fantastic effect, heralding her own appearance) with the Bouloman EP, and it’s a rougher, tougher display that should finally see her music rightfully slotted into DJs sets as often as on a home listener’s Sunday afternoon.

“Keisa Kizzy Kinte” is, for lack of better terminology, a monster acid tune. Long track durations continue – this particular track just a shade under 10 minutes – but Gwyer immediately goes harder with an interplay of hard, bass heavy kick, rapid-fire synths (fired in all directions then slowly brought into sync), and twisted, Drexciyan electro-acid stabs. Again there’s consistent hallmarks that unquestionably infer Gwyer at controls, her layers upon layers giving tonality unusual depth and a kind of marbling effect where small wrinkles build to become intriguing fluctuations and characters, but around such a strong backbone this technique really ripens and establishes a new kind of shine. Total fire.

“Brunch Music” is noisier still, a harsher tonality in the opening lead sequence under which percussion is slowly aligned until, 3 minutes in, the beat switches to choppy, steppah significance and melody mutates to a grimy warped bassline, then changes, changes. Whilst there’s a hundred reference points buried into the levels the grime and electro influences stick out for me, memories of Berceuse Heroique and the NPLGNN 12” on Okno from a month or two back in terms of madness.

“Shit List With Kid” hits the peak – a barreling, pummeling laser-guided bassline building and releasing simultaneously, entities like a gloomy church organ (thick, rich, slowly wrenched to become something fizzier) occasionally adding to the sense of dread and ecstasy in a remarkably fresh way. Measures of rave without reaching for overly played-out fallback and callback techniques. Honestly, I don’t like going out all that often at the minute – but I really need to hear this stuff played very loud somewhere soon.

Matthew Kent


A1. Keisa Kizzy Kinte
B1. Brunch Music
B2. Shit List With Kid