Artwork by Leonardo Ulian
London imprint Young Turks have earned their stripes via a series of releases that have meshed elements of traditional pop music with UK-indebted bass registrations — a run that was initiated by the then-unique offerings of SBTRKT, ascended to an apex with Jamie xx, and seemingly ceased with his band’s steadfast reluctance to venture outside their pretty-yet-prosaic comfort zone on their most recent LP. Arriving immediately on the heels of that effort, Young Turks have again opted to try their hand in an alchemical blend of a slightly different accord, recruiting Illum Sphere for a single that melds techno with a bass output comparable to aforementioned selections. Never one to align with a singular genre himself, the Manchester producer has arrived at a benchmark with Birthday/h808er, far-and-away his most menacing effort to date.
Ammunition detonates at the launch of “Birthday,” perhaps signifying this destruction of any previously paved paths. From there, a pixie-ish vocal snippet and a distorted synth pluck pair to undergo a battle of good vs. evil against a warped kick and a satanic warble. The track lumbers at this ominous clip, threatening to fold toward one direction or the other, yet a reluctance to do as much only heightens its foreboding nature. B-side “h808er” owns up to its name in both construction and awesomeness. An analogous Detroit shuffle burrows deeper with each passing bar until reprieve arrives thanks to an ever-so-slight piano wrinkle. Like a drill to the skull, the pressure lifts and we’re transported to a choral fugue state. Things seem a bit too-radiant-to-be-true and a return to oppression is teased, but never realized. Here’s to hoping for a trip back through the mire is in order upon his next release.