French imprint Astro Lab has remained an under appreciated gem of a label despite launching with a Pilooski release way back in 2007 and treating the more attentive vinyl acquirers to releases from such luminaries as Photonz, Hardway Bros and Mr Shake Shakir. Their latest reason for you to pay more attention comes via the musical mind of Timothy J Fairplay – who you may know as part of the excellent Kill The DJ regulars Battant or via his solo excursions on the Rotters Golf Club Boardroom compilation from a while back. Those unfamiliar should at least be impressed that the likes of Ivan Smagghe and Andrew Weatherall have been involved in some of Fairplay’s finest moments to date.
Newly inducted into the Astro Lab familia, Fairplay drops three cuts that pay homage to the OST icon John Carpenter. Whilst 70’s soundtrack synth odysseys of Carpenter and his contemporaries have been a much leaned on source of inspiration in recent times – with labels as diverse as Not Not Fun and Nang indulging with differing results – Fairplay’s own attempts definitely fall within the “oh gosh this is good” category. “Dawn” opens with the familiar brooding crystalline synth work that Carpenter specialised in, but crucially Fairplay embellishes the track with a low slung punk-funk sensibility that brings something different. Furthermore, there’s a pleasant variation to how Fairplay reveals his affection for Carpenter with “Different Land” taking on a delicate cosmiche feel – filled with expansive waves of ethereal synths veering above and beneath the laidback patter of drums, whilst the final simmering arpeggiated tension of “General Arrives” is complemented by a skeletal mid-tempo bump and warm throbbing bass.
Echoing previous releases on the label, Astro Lab match the original material with some fine remixes as the aforementioned Sir Weatherall opens the B Side with a typically unique treatment of “Sleigh Ride/Blizzard” which straddles the source with a muggy, druggy, languid techno vibe. Complementing this, Astro Lab’s London dwelling Portuguese correspondent ZNTN switches up the sounds of “General Arrives” – embellishing the rhythm with an ever changing percussive direction that will delight the more esoteric DJing ears out there.