Agnès, Jedi House EP

[Vitalik Recordings]

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Listening to the CD version of A Million Horses, the 2011 second album from Swiss producer Agnès, was not unlike making your way through a 19-course tasting menu at a fine dining restaurant. It began with a quirky amuse bouche before delivering a range of expertly executed deep house tracks, their lengths and moods varying but clearly the work of one refined producer. Towards second half of this lengthy meal, however, some of the pieces felt less considered and more like experiments. Even those opting for the more concentrated 10-track 2xLP would still feel full of his distinct house flavors; and in the year following its release, a few collaborative singles with Ripperton, Iron Curtis & Eddie Leader easily sated his fans’ hunger for more. Agnès starts 2013 with an unexpectedly robust offering, the five track Jedi House EP for Vitalik Recordings.

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This Star Wars-referencing EP actually has a fair amount in common with its long-playing predecessor. This isn’t a shock from a producer who has maintained a rather consistent aesthetic and toolkit these past few years, but it’s striking how both its form (two full-length tracks and three sketches of varying utility) and sound (lonely Juno bass, clearheaded synth chords, and sky-scraping strings) take the listener back rather than forward. That doesn’t hinder opener, “Silence & Snow,” from gushing dark chocolate bass tones on top of fainting pads, the hustling hi-hats that are Agnès’s signature hooking in skeptics and newcomers alike. Jelly-kneed piano chords and sweeping strings afford “Boba Fatt” a yearning and somewhat despondent mood — a tough sell for some dance floors but catnip for others. Of the shorter tracks, “Ancient Methods” is the most enjoyable, with a bass line that sends ripples through sweet vocals perhaps belonging to Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. “Maybe Here Maybe Not” is at least memorable, its froggy, pitched-down vocals worked into swung hip-hop beats fresh from the swamp. The EP concludes with the simple funk-looping of “Chew Rebellion,” a nice bonus beat which burns out quickly. Although this record is certainly pleasant enough, it suggests Agnès is so deep in his comfort zone he’s not challenging himself enough for a producer of his caliber.

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