Sometimes life can toss a nice little surprise your way. The barkeep buys you a pint for the road; your dour boss complements you on a job well done; a morning of gloomy showers can transform into an afternoon of shining sun. And so it is with this new EP from Dirtybird, courtesy of label honcho Barclay ‘Claude VonStroke’ Crenshaw and his fellow LA-based producer, Justin Jay. Subtlety has never exactly been Dirtybird’s stock-in-trade — its lengthy discography overflows with booming basslines and bumping beats, party music with a slightly quirky edge that doesn’t demand much in the way of introspective listening — but this wanders far enough off the label’s usual template to feel quite unforeseen. As it happens, it’s also quite good.
The four original tracks on ‘Oh’ draw from drum & bass, electro, juke, footwork, and the like, particularly from the more introspective, abstracted end of things. They wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a label such as Planet Mu or late-’90s-era Warp. In actuality, both Crenshaw and Jay have been down this path before — the former comes from a breakbeat background, and the latter has produced some nicely ethereal tunes in the past (check out his recent ‘Lost Boi’ cut on Lost Palms.) The tumbling ‘Poison’ layers a moody string line layered over its rapid-fire percussion and growling low end; the skeletal drum workout ‘Woo’ is an exercise in minimalist funk; the animated d&b rhythm of ‘Nucleus’ is blanketed by floating pads. The title cut, though, is the pick of the litter, its stop-start rhythm punctuated by a nifty set of staccato machine-jazz chords — as a bonus, it’s accompanied by a rather celestial rework from Hessle Audio’s Pearson Sound. For added authenticity, the vinyl version is coming out as a faux white label, and serves as the first installment of a new series of ‘alternative’ Dirtybird releases.
Justin Jay & Claude VonStroke's 'Oh' EP is available on vinyl from 11 June, and digitally on 18 June