Wigflex associate Morris Cowan's debut album Circa was a lesson in how tech house and mnml could be made to fit into the bass music continuum, emblazoning lean, precise grooves with veins of shimmering fluorescence. Colourful, squiggly and restless, it was an album whose complexity could prove almost overwhelming. Presented in more digestible EP form on Strands, however, Cowan's sound hits even harder.
The EP's lead track "Thermal" is a mixed bag: on the surface it's one of Cowan's prettiest things yet, all smoke and mirrors saturated in a coat of reflective sheen, but its earnest vocal from Duncan Edward Jones stomps over the majesty rather than accentuating it. Mancunian upstart and Zaubernuss labelmate Empyrean provides one of his broadly-sweeping ambient garage pieces with his rework, while Torino's Vaghe Stelle jacks up the volume and distorts the elements for a jarringly jagged remix. The EP's other two tracks could have fit quite easily on Circa, but they aren't mere leftovers: there's distinct progression here.
Cowan's attention to detail now feels organic rather than painstaking—check the little glints of realistic drum samples on "Dabsonsorbet" that light up the otherwise spongy groove. The result is something that finally feels as immersive as it sounds, with "Galored" especially swelling with brilliant photographic realism. Moving forward, it seems as if Cowan is ready to open up that world of dazzling colour he let us glimpse from afar on his debut album, and it's just as rich and satisfying as we could have hoped for.
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Tracklist: Morris Cowan - Strands 01. Morris Cowan & Duncan Edward Jones - Thermal
02. Morris Cowan - Dabsonsorbet
03. Morris Cowan - Galored
04. Morris Cowan & Duncan Edward Jones - Thermal (Empyrean Remix)
05. Morris Cowan & Duncan Edward Jones - Thermal (Vaghe Stelle Remix)