Something about the hibernatory nature of winter makes community radio much more appealing to this writer. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of good archived material to choose from these days, whether its Berlin Community Radio’s discussions on racism balanced between eclectic dance cuts, or NTS Radio’s all-encompassing programming, which has led the London-based community radio show to develop a name as a leader in alternative community sounds. Nowhere is this more obvious than Jon Rust’s No Boring Intro’s show, an open-ended “music round table” that’s gone through the natural progression – breaking off into a monthly party, and then last June, the Levels label.
The first release from the anonymous Lord Tusk was titled the Natural Partnership EP a theme that’s energetically coursing through the veins of the 2nd LEVELS release – a distilled dollop of analogue love featuring Estonian producers Ajukaja and Andrevski. Ajukaja (aka Raul Saaramets) has a history of broadcasting music to large populations as well – as a DJ, producer and promoter stretching back to the 80’s, he managed to make fast friends with legendary English disc jockey John Peel. It was a relationship that gave Saaramets access to a volume of music that was tenuous at a time when Soviet rule placed intensive restrictions on what could be broadcast.
Much like Lord Tusk’s previous release, the emphasis here is on loose-slung ideas that take their time cementing. Fortunately, both producers seem to intrinsically understand each other’s pacing. Take the stellar patterns pulsing out of “Jam 1,” the title of which could be referring to the improvisational nature of the piece or the sticky food spread. While the first thing that comes to mind is the way the piece gurgles and bubbles with a thick, viscous chug, what’s really impressive is how slowly things move from benign to threatening – it’s almost impossible to notice the mounting sense of urgency until the track begins stuttering and collapsing into itself in the final moment. Resisting any kind of consistent kick-drum throughout, the little bursts of percussion that do show up throughout punctuate the track even more strongly, like bubbles forming and popping in a cauldron of melted metals.
“Expensive Shit” begins sounding fairly indistinguishable from most other house releases these days, sporting a looped, dusty piano chord. But it doesn’t take long to realize that the duo is using the fairly basic staple as a blank canvas of sorts which they then proceed to deface in some pretty glorious ways. Pitch modulated screeching gets layered overtop paired with twinkling extraterrestrial bleeps, all while the same echoing piano line stays intact, transforming into a hypnotic metronome. The sweeping layers of distortion crashing against the track provide exactly the kind of build up that a DJ looking to incite dance floors to action would find useful, and it’s only the existence of “Rare Birds” that just barely prevents this cut from taking the cake as the EP’s standout track.
That’s because “Rare Birds” is a perfect example of a sporadic jam session that blossoms into something larger: Filled with whooping little blips throughout that this writer assumed are supposed to emulate peacock noises (or some other types of unusual fowl too exotic for this writer to comprehend), it kicks into high-gear when a stiff-armed flurry of MPC claps kick in at the two minute mark. The rest of the track becomes almost pop-like in its structure, becoming all about the interplay between the synth melodies and the clapping – a mutated call-and-response. While the staircase image that LEVELS releases mark on their sleeves with is simple, clean, and hard-edged, Ajukaja and Andrevski’s release shows that a little messiness is just as engaging.
A1. Rare Birds
B1. Expensive Shit
B2. Jam1 (Short Version)