Each record here has its own defined personality, but if there's one thing that unites them all, it's Van Hulle's upbeat disposition. African music and Latin rhythms are woven deep in the roots of this music, and there's a liveliness to it that makes even simple workouts (like the subtle swing of "Dikkiedik") feel special. On the first record, Van Hulle gets surprising mileage out of the simple contrast between sampled drums and the nylon texture of synthesizers. Slippery chords wobble beneath a buoyant rhythm track on "Su What?" "The Wall" is a wonderful slice of early morning deep house. It's easy to imagine this first EP being a breakthrough release on its own.
Things flag slightly on the second 12-inch. That same lifelike drum palette turns into hippie-dance drum circle material without lead melodies to keep it interesting. The ten-minute "Cowbelgian," a smoky hand percussion jam, smoulders nicely but feels strangely funkless. The record is also home to "Baila Con Paula," a samba-esque track embellished by nine-piece jazz band Jungle By Night, which sounds like it belongs on a TV infomercial. Moments like this make Van Hulle out to be a bit of a cheeseball, a trait that can be endearing or frustrating depending on your own level of cynicism.
There's a mischievous quality to almost everything Awanto 3 touches. He can't help it—his music is fun and uplifting above all else. While the three-EP format feels like a cop-out when we're told that Opel Mantra is meant to be an album, some might see it as a more effective way to release club music. And with at least two EPs' worth of solid gold material spread over its sprawling six sides, it's got more to offer than most producers' debut albums.
Tue / 25 Mar 2014
01. Su What?
02. The Wall
04. Su What? (Jameszoo remix)
02. Knocke Now
04. Baila Con Paula feat. Jungle By Night
01. Dikkiedik feat. Tom Trago
02. Bubbles Made Me Cry
04. Talk Together