At this point, it goes without saying that the Born Free crew are going to surprise you with whatever they do. Since 2011, Sling & Samo have done a marvelous job of weirding out the competition with a salvo of unfamiliar names burrowing in the nooks and crannies between house music conventions. Just recently we delighted at the wonders contained within that excellent Powder 12”, while Special Occasion provided a curious diversion into synth pop and hand played hardware abstractions. If there’s one thing that seems to unite the label, it’s an instinct for freakiness, even in its more pleasant and docile output.
Sexazoid comes beaming in from out of nowhere with the freak flag flying high, laying down the kind of house music that positively struts up to your attention, tilts its head back with one delicately poised toe and looks it square in the eyes. The name infers such imagery anyway, but the music completely validates it, and not in some obvious soundtrack-to-deviance kind of way. The B2 track is as good a place to start as any in explaining the whys and wherefores of this fine record, sporting as it does some delightfully unhinged characteristics.
You get the feeling when a beat consists of a simple 4/4 kick n’ snare combo there’s going to be space afforded for plenty more sonic detail, and so it goes here as the stark stab of a piano subtly detunes in a bid of discord with first a discofied bass and then its successor, a bubbling acid line. They’re simple elements but they spell out a lopsided feel which only amplifies as the track builds up, a rasping cymbal and siren wail bringing in a kind of laconic rave frenzy if such a thing can exist. There’s still room for some moody key action later in the track though, adding contemplative depth where you didn’t expect to find it.
“Emo Slave” is even more militant in its desire to disturb, starting with all kinds of angular aggravation from pulsing bleep tones that sit at odds with the beat, waiting to be joined some Hague-friendly electro bass that anchors the track without making things feel too safe. Even the drop into the main groove of the track unfolds in a fashion so understated it could be mistaken for lazy, but in this context the uncertainty around the incident adds to the disorientation. It’s not until the final third that it feels like the track has even found its way, a dystopian lead line rounding out a vision of sinister dungeon techno of the highest order.
In many ways this approach to describing the record makes title track “Up ‘n’ Coming” the odd one out, seeing as it has some of the more friendly qualities to be found on the EP. That said, it’s still a wild ride that delights in setting elements just off centre to create an addictive, distinctive brew. The bass that comes worming in on the run in instantly spells out a sturdy dancefloor workout, possibly with malicious intent, and the jerky slices of leads and other melodic detritus do nothing to assuage such notions. Just at a point where you may well have assumed the weirdest, in comes a classic slice of feel good pad riding on a low pass filter opening up to rain smoothness down on the rambunctious surroundings. The first appearance of this pad is something of a tease, only to melt back into the mist and leave the wonkiness reigning supreme, but when it returns for a second round there is ample time for a genuine euphoric rush to ensue, those subtly wrong elements suddenly bolstering a serotonin rush of the highest order.
Out of such unlikely situations are such magical musical moments made, where everything seems set to fall apart at any second but instead finds a wonderful cohesion. Anyone can make something sound deliberately weird, off-key, arrhythmic or just plain broken, but Sexazoid here demonstrates that subtle art of balancing the strange with the sublime and yielding something original and exciting out of the potential for chaos.
A1. Up ‘n’ Coming
B1. Emo Slave
B2. Last Train II U