Graceless cruises by over eight no-nonsense tracks. The same approach makes many dance music albums a chore, but it works for Barera and Martin, primarily because of their intricate but unfussy songwriting. These are long, loopy tracks, but they sound like two guys jamming on equipment, full of slight changes and improvisations to keep your attention—catch the drum fills between beats on "Transfer" or its sly little keyboard runs, touches that give the downcast, lazy-afternoon house a vivid flair. On other tunes, they're more bubbly: all the elements on "In Passing" feel like they're running up and down scales until they get dizzy, while "It's Alright" marvellously sprinkles bits of disco into their breezy Chicago template, with well-timed guitar jabs and a falsetto vocal that'll float around in your head for days.
It's ironic that Barera and Martin would choose Graceless as the title for their debut album, because almost everything about their music exudes grace and poise. The title track is a smorgasbord of pleasing textures, including warm electric piano, caressing strings and a gently nudging bassline. It all unfolds gradually, surprising and delighting with each new development. Even when they introduce harsher elements, like the booming dub techno chords on "Freefall," it's done with a loving care that makes it feel comforting.
Again and again, the duo find ways to put their spin on well-worn sounds. The moment you throw Graceless on and hear its gently thumping rhythm section, you feel like you've been here before—they're working in a completely familiar template. But in the same way that it's hard to pin-down exactly what makes Martin and Barera so good together, it's difficult to describe what it is they bring to house music that makes Graceless so magical. Sometimes, it does feel like magic—or maybe, as Barera might say, it's just chemistry.