A sense of fun isn’t generally the first thing a critic looks for in a new release. The worlds of techno and experimental music rarely raise a smile, barring an occasional wry smirk. Most house music that’s meant to be fun, those identikit bangers that clog up the internet, are so calculated that the joy is sapped out from the moment the needle hits the wax. But with the music of Rohan Bell-Towers, you can’t avoid the fun-factor. It just about smacks you in the face the moment you start listening to his music.
Bell-Towers is identifiably a product of Melbourne’s rising house scene, where the grooves are looser and the moods generally sunnier than their European counterparts. He’s now based in London, but the buoyant party streak remains firmly embedded in his output. Perhaps it’s partly Bell-Towers’ references. His music flits gleefully between genres but is heavily indebted to the blinding melodies of Italo and synth pop. Yet it never descends into throwback – those nostalgic hooks are almost always accompanied by tight, modern rhythms and track structures.
In 2013 Bell-Towers found a home at Munich’s leftfield-leaning Public Possession label, and he hasn’t released anywhere else since. This latest EP isn’t a drastic departure from the last in terms of tone, but his method has changed a little. Notably these two new tracks are full of chopped up vocals and melodies, lending them an intensity where previous tunes were more laid back. What’s impressive is that these acts of sonic surgery leave his brand of icy funk utterly intact.
“I’m Coming Up” is a classic filter disco tune reassembled with a modern slant. Its filtered strings are chopped into a catchy staccato groove, riding over a rhythm that leans heavily on bouncy toms. The whole track is a tease, with each new melody sliced wildly as Bell-Towers builds tension to breaking point before giddily pulling back with a wink.
The beetling Italo bassline of “Always Down For You” signals a punkier direction for the B-side, enhanced by its slurred strings and muffled keys. It starts out deep but builds momentum as the vocal gets trapped in a pitch shifting loop, underlined by machine-gun flurries of drums. The remix by fellow Melbournite Kris Baha is a straighter club cut that adds a lovely liquid synth hook, but ultimately lacks the original’s silkiness and defiance of dancefloor tropes. That’s the thing aboutBell-Towers – he doesn’t just produce superb, genuinely unique house music. He also sounds like he’s having a blast while he’s at it.
A1. I’m Coming Up
B1. Always Down For You
B2. Always Down For You (Kris Baha Remix)