It's been a great year for Canadian electronic music, no matter your niche of choice. New Kanda continued to serve up stylish warehouse sounds. Tazz offered a colourful techno full-length. No 19 consistently rolled out the tech. Kevin McPhee did his rugged thing, and Turbo has soared on a second wind thanks to producers like Nautiluss and Gingy & Bordello. But happily, the older boys are doing their bit too, with Mathew Jonson re-launching Itiswhatitis to a warm reception, and now Stuart Li releasing his debut long-player, Motional Response.
The album has been a decade in the making for Li, until now content to roam in the imprecise grey areas between fuggy deep house and subliminal techno on 12-inches for labels like Dolly, Nonplus and New Kanada. There are no radical departures from that discography (bar some use of "proper" vocals) and no conceited concessions to the longer format. Instead we get 16 analogue explorations of rhythm and texture that peak with some of the man's best work. And while the floor is clearly never far from Li's mind, he has a sufficiently dexterous grip on his tools to keep things unfamiliar enough to thrill throughout.
Things kick-off in lofty A Made Up Sound territory on "Across the Room," with off-time snare skirmishes and blurts of pixelated synth cutting through a cloud of analogue lines and dream-like pads. "Breathe," meanwhile, with its appropriately airy vocals is like a frosty BPitch cut sunken in a lazy groove, before a more recognisable BSU finally appears in the heavily swung, raw house crunches of "Clouds Short." (Incidentally, the same track appears in ten-minute form at the end. It sure is a weapon, but only DJs picking the album apart will really appreciate its inclusion.)
While much of the underground toils ever harder to make their sounds as gloomy and degraded as possible, Li is happy to leave in the odd shiny surface or sharpened edge to keep your synapses twitching. They provide essential rough/smooth and organic/synthetic contrasts in tracks like "All Over Me" where supple kicks are sliced through with face-slapping hi-hats, or in "Intersection," with its warm acid bassline and frosty claps laid over the top. Much of the time, machines are the centre point, like on "Let Go" where myriad synth puddles seemingly ripple away of their own accord, slowly rising ever higher then deteriorating to nothing. Somehow, though, said machines are made human enough in Li's hands for Motional Response to go far beyond a purely physical workout.
Buy Basic Soul Unit - Motional Response at
Tracklist: Basic Soul Unit - Motional Response01. Across the Room
05. All Over Me
07. Backseat Lover
09. Mind Forest
10. Let Go
11. Breath (Jerome Derradji Remix)
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