Cooly G, Hold Me

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Before traveling into new and stranger spaces, Hold Me begins by recalling the tracks that first brought Merrisa Campbell to the attention of DJs and dancers back in 2008, when UK funky was becoming a diversion ever harder to ignore. Like many producers who were drawn into that fleeting movement, her music never quite fitted, and half a decade later it doesn’t fit anywhere else either. When comparing the atmosphere and dynamics of this three-track EP to her 2012 debut album, the titles are the clues: this is far more sweaty, in-your-face, and danceable than the spun-out shadow spaces of Playin Me. On the three-year-old “Oi Dirty,” an anomaly here in terms of era and style, the presence of collaborator DVA is dominating. Thin, twitchy drums and motorized noise are ordered into a deranged sequence of conveyor-belt processes; hydraulic rivets of sub bass puncture your chest. But it’s Campbell’s light touch on the beats that keeps it more subtle, more monochrome than DVA’s solo work, and it’s all the more cool and affecting for it.

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In the new material here, the structural roughness that early tracks like “Narst” had in common with grime is now absent. As her voice floats characteristically through the muggy, sub-throbbing breakbeats, “Hold Me”‘s erratic dynamics—the blunt, tumbling kicks and percussion fizz that have been present since those early plates—work towards offsetting a rhythm that is far more grounded and steady at its heart, with a stronger deep-house feel than even “Landscapes,” her 2011 collaboration with Simbad. It’s obviously aiming at something different to previous tracks, so I’m loath to call it an improvement as such, but her production skill, in terms of traditional club-ready polish, has certainly been perfected in the period since the making of Playin Me. Finally comes “Molly,” even further from anything Campbell’s done before. It’s the closest thing to techno we’ve heard from the producer, using a grainy aluminum reverb over its light-footed, low-down beat. There’s a insectile strangeness to this production; severely processed hats become pincer-teeth that scrape and scratch icily over the surface of the rhythm. After a couple of minutes of this unsettling groove, a metallic synth impact starts to bash out the offbeat, blunt, distorted and reverberating. This repetitive device rises into a rushing tension, the finer parts of the track falling away to create a wide-open field through which you can cruise with thrilling velocity.

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