There’s lots of glory in producing the tracks everyone leaves the club humming at the end of the night — the ones that rack up tens or hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube and SoundCloud, or better yet, actually sell a few thousand copies. But the dance floor isn’t driven only by the hits. Receiving far less glory are the tracks that form the valleys and plateaus, which — unless your ideal night at the club involves a mosh pit and Steve Aoki — really make all the difference. And these tendon-y tracks are not expendable; if there’s an art to deploying a subtle connective groove in a DJ set, then there’s certainly an art to creating a powerful one. John Osborn and October (born Julian Raymond Smith), DJ’s DJs and proprietors of the TANSTAAFL imprint, revel in this space: their label’s first record, Osborn’s Epoch 4 (with contributions from October and Appleblim), seemed less interested in being visible than with burrowing deep into the night — a record that aimed at being a secret weapon from its moment of inception.
October, a longtime advocate of house and techno in Bristol, has certainly produced big, highly visible tracks, like the colorful “String Theory” on Simple Records from earlier this year. That he’s credited as DJ October on Planet Of Minds / Singularity Jump, TANSTAAFL’s second 12″, hints at who might get the most out of this record. And that we’re still talking about it quite a few months after its release speaks to its potency. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about either track (save a saxophone, perhaps), but nothing really has to be: October is honing his blade here, not forging a brand-new battle ax. “Planet Of Minds” is all bass line — a minimalist, carefully calibrated handful of notes whose evolution over the course of the track is just noticeable — and painstakingly tweaked percussion, with atmospherics that suggest a melody more than they actually propagate one. “Singularity Jump” is more direct still, at least at first: it seems like all October has done is up the gain on his drums and throw in some hard-hitting vocal chops. When that saxophone comes in, though, you know you’re in for a party. If the track weren’t so lengthy and groovy, you’d think October was making a go at something bigger and showier. But as the cavalcade winds down, you sense him slinking back into the shadows, digging in rather than basking in the glow.