When does east become west? I mean who’s to say Auckland isn’t west, rather than east, of L.A.? Listening to the New Zealand-based Jellphonic aka St. Liquor-ish’s 100 Snakes EP on the brand new Clone Crown Limited (I know, another Clone sub-label), it soon becomes clear he’s not an artist that bothers with such arbitrary geographical distinctions. This is the wheezy west coast sound taken to its illogical antipodean extreme, a synth(etic) ass wallop of electric boogie-woogie that constantly threatens to collapse under the various anxieties of influence the record operates under. Clone has always been a deliciously on-point label, reminding us not only of what we should have listened to first time round via their unparalleled reissues, but also of what we might just be listening to next. I know next to nothing about Clone Crown Limited’s raison d’être, but on the evidence of this release, they are intent on slowing down the BPMs and ratcheting up the funk.
Opener “100 Snakes” kicks off proceedings with some real life percussion, fleshed out by elongated 303s. A vocoded warbling segues into a series of miscalculated arrangements, and before you know it we’re left with a poor man’s Vitalic with a thing for Dilla, playing warm-up at a Dam Funk concert. The instrumental that follows is quite literally that: “100 Snakes” without the vocals. I can’t decide which one I dislike more. Luckily, on the flip, “Sexxy” featuring Reggie Blount somewhat rescues proceedings. Featuring some female vocals, sparring with a creepy, libidinous male, the skippy beat and synth injections just about manage to keep this treading water. Final track “The Only One” is the real highlight here. 1970’s B-movie dialogue flows into a shimmering lake of moonlit synths that dissolve into a breakdown reminiscent of Mount Kimbie, affording a top notch selectah a handy way to close out a set. This whole DJ Quik and Kurupt meets George Clinton thing should work, and I’m sad it doesn’t. It’s not so much that anything here is bad per se — production-wise it’s all pretty tight — just hideously calculated and painfully derivative. Don’t pack up your synths and buy that Air New Zealand flight just yet.