A dance floor album that can't help but be different.
STS371 picks up Karmil's path towards a more easily defined style, although I can't help but affectionately chuckle at what he lands on. Even when he's writing what's pretty much a straight-up dance floor record, Karmil is naturally drawn to variety. The moods here are often reminiscent of his past work, but they're given dance floor refits of varying tempos and rhythms, some of which are new looks for him. We get, on the one hand, examples of the shimmering-but-scuffed house music that made him a great fit for releases on Studio Barnhus and Aus. "Smoke," for instance, opens the record with a dialogue between a wandering bassline and what could be a guitar chord, with Karmil creating real buoyancy through this straightforward interaction. "Hard," "Breezy" and "210" are also of this ilk. "210," a sedated roller, is slightly forgettable, which is unfortunate as it closes the album. But "Hard" and "Breezy" are both classically Karmil, revelling in the fusion of rich, filtered melodies and crisp, punchy beats.
Then there are the more daring and/or surprising moves, which for me elevate the album as a whole. Karmil has worked around techno tempos before—and you could argue that lots of his material is slightly more techno than house—but here he fully leans into it. "Still Not French" tickles 150 BPM and sounds invigorated for it, as one of the record's sweetest melodies matches with a galloping drum machine. The other full-bore techno track, "SR/WB," further illustrates that Karmil is often at his best when he's at his most frugal. Other tracks avoid such clear expressions. "Snail Shower," "PB" and "Congo" all raise questions like, "Is this thing in two different tempos?" and "Is he into footwork?" Granted, these might not be questions some listeners fancy dealing with. But they should excite those of us who have now followed Karmil through the release of five very strong albums.