Braiden, Belfry Tower

[Rush Hour Recordings]

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Braiden is an odd one. Buying his first pair of decks at the relatively mature age of 19, his ascent through the ranks of the UK underground dance scene has been both swift and assertive. Via radio stints on Sub, and later Rinse FM, it looked for a long time like this eclectic South Londoner was destined, alongside Ben UFO, Youngsta, and Oneman, to belong to that unique and immensely talented pocket of contemporary British performers for whom DJing is their sole modus operandi. However, in late 2010 Braiden surprised us all with The Alps. Released through Joy Orbison’s (now defunct) Doldrums imprint to considerable critical acclaim, it was a single, adept example of Braiden’s song-writing ability. Eager to hear more, the scene waited in anticipation. And waited. Bar a couple of remixes and rumors aplenty, nothing original ever surfaced. That is, at long last, until now.

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Belfry Tower, released through Dutch powerhouse Rush Hour, effectively triples Braiden’s original output, and in the tense, cinematic opening bars of the title track, one can feel the auteur toying playfully with his listener’s sense of anticipation. The interesting thing is, what to expect? As a DJ, Braiden has left his foundational dubstep past behind, focusing his efforts more on exploring the cavernous vaults of house, techno and electro. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, given the UK elite’s current techno fixation, “Belfry Tower” is decidedly militant, all hard-hitting kicks and rhythmically patterned snares framed around a forceful, bullish bass line. It is a markedly dark record, frightening even in some of its elemental sound design. The use of slightly awkward, fragmented chord progressions adds to the uneasiness, maintaining the listener’s engagement. On “Paganini,” Braiden gets a little housier. Centering proceedings on his manipulation of the celebrated vocal, once the basis for Ella Fitzgerald’s foray into scat singing, Braiden sets about crafting a slice of simple yet potent dance-floor house. While the drums remain thick and unrelenting, the bass lines are unashamedly groovier, chopped and changed at various intervals to conserve the record’s quickfire energy. One bass line, landing bang on three and half minutes in, is up there with the best of them. While the tracks on this EP are far from groundbreaking, they convey a fresh and vibrant approach to production, with strong emphasis placed on retaining groove, and thus interest, through rhythmic variation. Let’s just hope, this time, we don’t have to wait quite as long for further evidence of Braiden’s strong production potential.

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