As someone who primarily buys and consumes music in album and EP form (that is to say, not dancefloor orientated releases) it takes a pretty huge track to make me take specific interest. Girl Unit‘s 2010 track Wut was, however, pretty unavoidable.
It came at a time when the neon/purple/synthy r’n'b sound was in full force, and it certainly lived up to the expectations of its peers. That was of course nearly two years ago, and as buzzy as it was at the time, that sound has mellowed and moved aside for other things to take the bass music community by storm. Girl Unit seems to have been pretty quiet over that period, so it’s exciting to hear a new EP from him. I’m very pleased with his eventual output. It’s different, packed full of exciting ideas and still super highly polished and perfectly presented.
My first impression is, before hearing any music whatsoever, the increased length of the release. Six tracks, at an average of five minutes each mean that while this is undeniably an EP, it matches a fair few albums in play time. This sits well with me immediately, although not without fears of stagnant dance music long players. Luckily, this is not the case.
Opener Ensemble (Club Mix) is understandably catchy and hooky. Presumably intended as a big dance-floor hit, it certainly hits all the required spots. The neon synth sound remains, but with (unsurprisingly) a much higher emphasis on the rolling, disco end of the spectrum. It takes a while for the main theme to build in, but when it does it’s undeniably anthemic.
Cake Boss opens with harsh electro stabs, and builds into full-on electro. Clearly taking a large tip from the juke scene that has arguably been the other main player in the bass music scene in recent years, it crams in about as many stark electro elements as it can without sounding messy. The results are angular and energetic. Most interestingly, it smacks of early Warp and SKAM work, and has an austerity that has only really been seen in the underground electro scene until quite recently.
Plaza picks the neon up again, but keeping a firm grasp on the electro sound. The harshness is gone, and replaced with a solid breakbeat groove. Aside from the filtered hooks that break through sporadically, it’s essentially just a raw 808 jam. It’s fairly unremarkable, but does the job. Certainly I can see it being a very effective club track.
For me, the most exciting track is Double Take. It starts up with the harsh noises again, but quickly brings in a beautifully deep and jerky halfstep beat. The strange sounds remain and fit the oddness of the rhythm perfectly. These elements build throughout, cutting in all the right places. There’s plenty of space in the mix so every jerk maintains its effect. Right at the last minute, a splash of neon is brought back up, going off into a neat melodic phrase. It’s moments like this which play up the EP’s strengths as more than just dance-floor music.
Rezday is firmly back in synth territory. A long, building intro gives way into skittering halfstep drums. Usually I shy away from obvious, plodding halfstep, but this has enough class and purpose to pull it off. The synths maintain their dominance throughout, and combined with the harsh mechanic percussion give the whole affair a brutal John Carpenter vibe.
Club Rez is exactly what it says on the tin. Rhythmically it stays both in the halfstep domain, and the urgent electro, but it is certainly much more R’n'B than it is dubstep. The depth of the kicks combined with the almost saccharin synth lines work to create a powerfully anthemic track, which is almost too much, but not quite.
It’s a strong EP, with each track holding its own perfectly. It doesn’t overdo any of its features, and remains a fresh and interesting listen for the full 30 minutes. It’s undeniably a product of the current bass music scene; all of the important sounds from the last year are displayed here (and with good effect), and it’s pushing what seem to be (excitingly) the scene’s newest focus, that early Warp/IDM electro sound.
Electro with grit and sincerity. It’s also very definitely a Girl Unit release, picking up where ‘Wut‘ left off, while still acknowledging the time in between.
Girl Unit – Club Rez EP
Girl Unit : Ensemble (Club Mix)
Girl Unit : Cake Boss
Girl Unit : Plaza
Girl Unit : Double Take
Girl Unit : Rezday
Girl Unit : Club Rez
MIX: Ben Gibson – CLFT0040