2012 was a bumper year for both PAN and Mark Fell's Sensate Focus project: the former garnered praise from all quarters with a series of releases exploring the intersections between dance music and experimental electronics, while the latter followed a similar muse under the aegis of Editions Mego. It seems wholly appropriate, then, that the pair joined forces to see the year out with a special remix 12-inch. Fell's source material is Heatsick's Deviation, a four-tracker of sunny Casio keyboard house that sashayed its way into the limelight back in the summer. It's intriguing to compare the two producers, both of whom supply an outsider's perspective on house music but with such different results: one ramshackle but full of lo-fi vigour, the other clean and near-clinically precise.
Déviation Heat-treated isn't really an aesthetic compromise, so much as an excuse for Fell to do his thing. Across two side-length tracks, fragments of the originals are picked out, isolated and fed through the inimitable Sensate Focus prism, throwing up gorgeous fractal configurations of sound that hint at dance forms before skipping puckishly away into the heat haze. For the most part, then, this is business as usual: finely poised asymmetrical beat patterns rendered with a crisp percussive palette; looped micro-fragments of voice and digi-organ; lush synthetic pads that coil lazily overhead.
Still, there are hints that Fell is working to expand the project's distinctive grammar. He breaks free of the relatively staid structures found on previous singles, opting instead for suite-like constructions: ideas are seeded, blossom and then die away, leaving new ones to grow in their place. And occasional moments of menace interrupt the smoothness of it all, particularly in the latter half of side A, where glassy synth tones build to a baleful, brain-boring peak.
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Tracklist: Sensate Focus - Deviation Heat-treated A X