Since last year’s substantial breakthrough, Mad Disrespect, Anthony Naples has consistently exhibited the many facets of his aesthetic: some dustily warm and inviting, some misty and sinister. But whichever side was showing — whether it turned out to be a raw remix for Four Tet, some KDJ-inspired techno and hollowed-out house for Mister Saturday Night label, or even gritty bass oscillations on Opal Tapes — he’s continued to garner praise from nearly all corners of dance music’s underground. Continuing this confident streak, the young Brooklynite continues to stylistically broaden his oeuvre with El Portal EP on The Trilogy Tapes. Its four tracks explore various dubby territories, breathing some necessary space into his established formula.
Side A begins with “El Portal,” an abstract deep house exercise with restlessly swerving pads and steady beats, slowly climbing toward an invisible, distant perfection without landing anywhere. Lacking a definable aim, the track hovers in suspended bliss before descending into a whoosh of atmospheric noise and enigmatic guitar echoes. Despite its relative shortness, “Pueblo” proves to be a much more memorable experience. Its discrete tape hiss, basic rhythmic template, and mournful melodies establish some Don Papa-like nostalgic digidub patterns even as the bass and percussive high end don’t really follow the plan, creating an interesting hybrid, indeed. “Busy Signal” is a breezy house track with sustained pitches whose textures constantly waver, propelled by a trampling kick-drum backbone. Zoned-out vocals, lashes of interference and tingling hi-hats manage to evoke both spaciousness and overload at the same time, slowly growing its hypnotic effect. By contrast, “La Cuarta” presents a fairly average beatless dub techno affair, matching the same length as “Pueblo.” Its brevity prevents it from standing on its own, but overall it rounds up the release in a meaningful way and proves a certain point.
It’s apparent Naples is diligently searching for his own voice, still heavily leaning on the past signifiers which decisively shaped his deep musical approach. El Portal EP is therefore a significant statement from him, showcasing a painstaking willingness to extract delicate sounds from any source available and shape them into dance-compatible forms while rejecting the formulaic restraints of genres and expectations. It’s not the easiest position to be in, but as with many things in life, rights are fought for, not given. To enter the house, he will have to first let himself in. With this release, he’s on the path to achieving what he wants.