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  • Filed under: Review
  • 05/07/2012

Girl Unit Club Rez EP

Girl Unit (a.k.a. Philip Gamble) may not be in charge of Night Slugs, but he is the producer responsible for the influential label's biggest tune, 2010's "Wut." The song—which has held up rather well despite being effectively played to death over the past two years—continues to be regarded as an anthem, and will likely stick with Girl Unit throughout his musical career. Following up a record like "Wut" is never easy, and although the London-based artist has dropped a steady stream of remixes during the last 18 months, he's certainly taken his time with the Club Rez EP. It's an incredibly detailed and intricate effort, and while none of its six tracks is likely to have the same kind of scene-altering impact as "Wut," it's nonetheless an impressive new chapter from a talented producer who's likely to be turning heads for years to come.

Club Rez begins on a high note with "Ensemble (Club Mix)." Built upon a sturdy frame of rapid-fire 808 drum sounds, the track finds Girl Unit nudging into new sonic territory—namely, '80s electro and boogie. The song's chunky bassline is undeniably funky, as are some of the track's opening synths. That said, "Ensemble (Club Mix)" is no simple throwback, and Girl Unit's penchant for dramatic builds has remained intact, as he brings in an eerily serene melody as the track's focal point. Part new-age blissout, part vintage RPG videogame score, the melody may be unexpected, yet it complements the rest of the Girl Unit's production—even the '80s-referencing elements—in spectacular fashion. The EP's other '80s flirtation, "Plaza," is even more overt. Sounding like an updated take on Yaz, the song layers hooky synth riffs over clap-heavy electro percussion. It's less adventurous and more linear than "Ensemble (Club Mix)," but it's similarly effective.

While Girl Unit's glances toward the '80s might provide the strongest moments on Club Rez, those looking for the same kind of dramatics that powered "Wut" may gravitate toward the EP's last two selections. "Rezday" is centered around a triumphant synth melody that borrows equally from big-room trance and crunk. Combined with a flurry of hi-hats and a swirling low-end, it's a potent number, albeit a simple one as compared to its counterparts on the release. The melodies get even bigger on "Club Rez," as the EP's title track dials down the percussion ever so slightly while rolling out an array of full-blown Eurotrance synths. It's not exactly the most tasteful thing Girl Unit's ever done, but it's more than capable of tiding over the punters simply looking for "Wut II: The Revenge."

On the other end of the spectrum are the EP's remaining selections, "Cake Boss" and "Double Take," two tracks that essentially eschew melody in favor of hard-hitting percussion and inventive drum patterns. Granted, Girl Unit has never been a slouch when it comes to drums, but percussion has rarely been the focal point of his original tunes. His remix work, on the other hand, has occasionally strayed away from big melodies, and "Cake Boss" is more in line with his reworks of Kodiak and Nguzunguzu. The track is an all-out assault, as he piles layer after layer of drums and propels the entire affair with a harsh synth stab that repeats throughout the song. More mellow is "Double Take," a track which finds Girl Unit easing off the accelerator and getting a bit weird, crafting something similar to the off-kilter, hip-hop-flavored rhythms that populated labelmate Jam City's Magic Drops EP. The song actually does have some melodic elements, but they don't appear until nearly four minutes into the track's five-minute runtime, when Girl Unit brings in a filtered trance melody that quickly segues into a breezy, synth-colored hip-hop beat. The brief passage is one of the EP's most compelling segments, yet it's all over too quickly.

On the whole, the Club Rez EP is an interesting release. With six tracks and almost 30 minutes of music, there's a lot of material to explore. That said, it's not really a definitive effort, or even one that provides a clear roadmap of exactly where Girl Unit is heading as an artist. He's experimenting with new sound palettes, refining his production techniques, and creating more detailed tracks than ever before. Songs like "Ensemble (Club Mix)," "Cake Boss," and "Rezday" are all quite different, yet they all sound like Girl Unit and, more importantly, are all quite good. His evolution may not be complete, but the process hasn't prevented him from making quality tunes in the meantime.

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