Huerco S., Colonial Patterns

[Software Records]

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Staying distinct but still adventurous is a constant inner battle which Kansas City’s Huerco S. has fought continuously since debuting in 2011, but especially on his first LP, Colonial Patterns. First reaching wider audiences with a singularly skewed take on house/techno tropes for Wicked Bass and Opal Tapes, it seems he’s never really paid much attention to the tyranny of the dance floor; one could even read his work as a conscious rejection of the club dynamic. Yet reading about and listening to the producer born as Brian Leeds, you get the impression that these diversions were instinctive byproducts of an artist still finding his place in the electronic soundscape.

Leeds’ mix of properly rugged beat experiments over warm, organic samples has been often imitated, but rarely surpassed; funnily enough, there are even tutorials now on how to make this specific strain of rough house, lumped together with Levon Vincent and Anthony Naples. Over the last two years though, Leeds has shown a different, patient consistency at the heart of his work, slowly sliding away even from the marginal club sounds he once incorporated. In kind, Colonial Patterns found a home on Software, a label run by Dan Lopatin.

The album should definitely be experienced as a whole and not skipped around in or dissected bit by bit. Many tracks are short, almost sketch-like pieces, sometimes completely self-complacent such as “Hopewell [Devil],” and generally using only one or two ideas that repeat for maximum impact. There are some reminders of his previous output, such as “Prinzif” or even “Ragtime U.S.A. [Warning],” that come closer to a dance floor mentality, but they represent a visible minority. Rhythm is not so much expressed as implied, and Leeds controls it through an almost intangible balance of bass pulses, intertwined synth threads, looped hisses and vocal refrains, which drift in and out of focus, like on “Skug Commune.” Noise is a regular character throughout the ever-changing hypnotic compositions, and hearing similar textures and references crop up repeatedly somehow ends up both pleasurable and disorienting, especially when degraded into gentle undulations and cryptic radio transmissions.

Sound shrapnel in different fidelities seem to spill out everyplace, never wanting to be contained in; slow, slinking melodies bring a leaden gravity to the foreground, and in tunes such as “‘IiÅ„zhiid” or “Chun-Kee Player,” he really soaks himself into dub-techno haziness. By the time the last tune “Angel [Phase]” ends, the album has subtly but steadily built a cumulative momentum that simply carries the listener away. Even after several repeated listens, it remains formless, like smoke poured into a jar, presenting a long-expected alliance between American dance, noise, and ambient territories. Leeds’ freedom to experiment on this album suggests a promising future. He obviously doesn’t look back; his work is about practicing, finessing, and realizing tiny details of his musical vision.

A. Blaktony Horton  on November 17, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Diggin’ “Skug Commune”


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