A young but growing label, London-based label Kokeshi has been steeped in romantic aestheticism, a loved-up warmth that conveniently aligned its output with trendy goings-on in the Autonomic movement. Mostly centered around drum & bass and dubstep, Colchester producer Irrelevant's "Better Off in Me" is one of the label's highlights, sitting in the sorta-garage borderlands between house-friendly tempos and dubstep. His debut album I'll Be OK continues on this thread, and much like Kokeshi itself it's a transparently emotional take on bass music that can ring hollow as much as it can true.
Irrelevant aligns himself with producers like Synkro and Indigo, artists who make beatific bass music that chisels bits and pieces from other sounds into a beautiful but unclassifiable whole. Vocal samples, chirping synths, springy and swingy drums, all lathered in a heavy coat of reverb: Irrelevant's sound is not an unfamiliar one. But look closer and his structures are slightly off kilter: often his vocal samples seem like they're falling off the beat and landing in jagged crooks. Tracks like "No Love" and "Betray" are so swollen with the weight of their emotions that they basically topple over and spill out, and the clashing of vocals and beats creates a dissonance more heartbreaking than any hackneyed chord progression.
There are lots of traditionally melancholic elements on I'll Be OK too, however, whether it's the metallic guitar strums of "Below Zero" or the elegant and painstaking "Eventide," a subtle track with an ebbing atmosphere. Even more crucially, Irrelevant makes use of drum & bass/dark garage's burrowing basslines but turns them inside out—much like Burial—so their rise and fall becomes not a rushing high but a sad and sometimes menacing undercurrent to his tracks. These basslines are the secret weapon for what makes tracks like "Better Off In Me" and especially album highlight suite "Self Harm" so riveting, empowering the sadsack trudging with a heartsick mobility.
Equal parts powerful and predictable, I'll Be OK is a textbook debut album. There are a few moments where it feels like he's trying to do too much, especially the disorienting and unnecessarily long "Saigon Tears" or the jerky and unfocused "Flicker." Aside from a few quirks here and there, there isn't a lot—yet—that sets him apart from his peers, but he's clearly got talent and tracks like "Eventide" are worth the price of admission.
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Tracklist: Irrelevant - I'll Be OK A1 Cosmos
A2 No Love
A3 Below Zero
B1 Wake Up (Interlude)
B3 Self Harm Pt. 1
C1 Saigon Tears
C2 Blame You
C3 Better Off In Me feat. Brad Sucks
D1 Self Harm Pt. 2
D3 Human Nature