Clay Wilson BASH002
Opening a loosely conceptual series of vinyl-only releases entitled Bangers and Ash, Netherlands-based producer tomlaan helped promising Brooklyn imprint Styles Upon Styles get off on the right foot last year with an EP that traversed experimental, drone-infused hip-hop to synth-heavy half-step. For its second installment in the series—which enlists artists to prepare abstract and experimental productions on the a-side (the "Ash" part) and club-ready "Bangers" for the flip—the label turns its attention to its hometown, shining a spotlight on another relatively unknown producer, 23-year-old Clay Wilson. However, rather than taking the same twisting, genre-blurring path as tomlaan, Wilson remains almost clinically focused on one thing over the course of his debut 12": techno.
Specifically, it's the darker realm of psychedelic techno Wilson is dealing with. Even after factoring in last year's notable surge of a rather menacing variant of the genre, one would be hard pressed to find a recent effort as depraved of light as the majority of tracks which adorn this record. "Tab," the opener of the "Ash" side, is essentially nothing more than what sounds like a series of bass stabs weeping for 50 seconds. The track may not strike listeners as anything too interesting by itself, but placed at the edge of this particular 12", it almost serves to foreshadow the often stunning levels of intricacy that Clay puts into his low-end elements. Serving as the EP's anxious pulse, the bass does have a metronomic and persistent presence, but its hypnotic—and at times seductive—gloominess prevents it from grating.
"Reset" is an early highlight, on which a bassline throbs slowly while industrial drone textures and skittering static float seamlessly above it in the mix. These hi-end layers seem to take on a life of their own, constantly changing shape and form while going through various filters and automations with the unpredictability of a free-jazz record. Indeed, the ethos of improvisational music is at the very heart of Wilson's production, most prominently on "Pfizing," a raucous ode to resonance, empty warehouses, and post-rave tinnitus that playfully explores techno's ectoplasmic qualities.
Though undoubtedly system-focused, "Bangers" probably isn't the appropriate terminology for the tracks on Side B. Rather, both "End Gap" and "Toe the Line" are the kind of dizzying sprawlers clearly catered for the spaced-out crowds populating ill-lit underground parties after 3 a.m. "Toe the Line" is particularly impressive, its constant low-end mutations—all fidgety and paranoid in nature—met by equally itchy hi-hats and fleeting instances of wriggling acid. It's an apt conclusion to an uncompromisingly moody EP from an adventurous new face.
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