What makes Vakant such a great label is that all their releases are knockouts, but knockouts from an unexpected direction – like getting sucker punched by a midget. And what makes Smoke such a great producer is that he knows exactly how far you can bend a groove out of shape before it snaps, so he always takes you into new territory while ensuring that its territory that can still be reached by dancing. As with all his releases, the sounds he uses on this EP don’t sound like anyone else’s – they have a grainy imperfection but are placed with mathematical precision to create equally unique and satisfying rhythms.
The killer tune here is ‘Hanged Man’. Holy shit this has a great intro. The bassline hums and clicks and bleeps skitter from left to right like edgy horror movie camerawork. Then a poisonously evil overdriven riff arrives and slowly mutates into quasi-acid screams. By the time the kick comes back in at 2’40” you know you’re not leaving the dancefloor till this is over. Smoke continues to make it scarier and scarier with various buzzes and clatters then it all goes quiet (too quiet) before building up again and peaking with a tiny little taste of an odd organ riff full of tainted sweetness. Anyone who wrote off Alex Smoke as chillout music can eat their words after this one.
‘It’s a Carni Life’ is a trancey builder with insistently rigid hats and repetitive, rising keys. There are subtle background squelches, eerie voices and melodic counterpoints. The climax, which takes its own sweet time to arrive, is militaristic but off-kilter – like soldiers with no pants on. More of a head track than a body one, but extremely atmospheric and trippy.
Finally ‘Rotwang’ is full-on ‘check out my wacky percussion’ Vakant territory. I like it, but a lot of dancers may find it too abstract.
A great release from Alex Smoke and one that covers all bases – I’d urge people to buy the whole thing and not just get ‘Hanged Man’ because the tracks cover such a wide variety of contexts. They could all be dynamite in the hands of the right DJ.