Now seems to be a particularly auspicious time to be a young Aussie producer. Not only have the country’s dance-music scenes begun to appreciably mature, the rest of the world has begun to import Australian producers and their records with a hunger once reserved for the country’s minerals. Griffin James is among the artists whose profiles have risen in tandem with the larger Melbourne scene. His capable, if not exactly inventive, productions as Francis Inferno Orchestra tread the line between disco and house with a sample-heavy panache, earning him places in the back catalogues of Kolour Recordings, Wolf Music, and Under The Shade. Yet the 21-year-old producer has already come a long way since his first release arrived in 2010, a fact made plainly evident by his first solo record of 2012, the Astral Breeze EP for 20:20 Vision off-shoot, Fina Records.
Given the strength of Griffin’s fundamentals — his clever and unobtrusive drum programming — it seemed likely he would excel when venturing beyond his disco-house comfort zone. His latest EP adopts the trappings of 90s house, a trendier sound but also one that plays to his strengths. While sighing chords and the genial bass below them set the right tone on the title track, it’s the evolving percussion that keeps my attention, shifting from a loose, tambourine jangle to gently insistent hi-hats, often peppered with thoughtfully timed vocal syllables. “Here’s To Feeling Good All The Time” is even better, its sharply chopping hi-hats and a thick spray of ride cymbals backing dancers into the arms of a bumping bass line and smile-inducing piano flourishes. What sets the tune apart from the dozens of tracks mining this aesthetic is the utterly triumphant synth riff arriving midway through, a toast to happiness with all the effervescence of freshly popped champagne. Only on closer “Silk & Smoove” does Griffin retreat into his wheelhouse, offering up an energetic, disco-styled stomper that bears a strong resemblance to Soundstream’s loopiest compositions. Griffin’s stylistic shift finds him in fertile territory in a scene ready to lift up its most talented denizens. Cultivating this new ground could allow him to transcend it.