Kassian Troyer, Stills


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The title of Kassian Troyer’s debut EP, Stills, is about the most appropriate thing he could have picked. Like many of the records on Dial, it presents a petite and particularly studied brand of deep house. If Troyer was painting rather than making music, it would be easy to envisage him painstakingly replicating every piece of pollen on a flower’s head on the canvas. Correspondingly, good headphones almost seem a necessity to fully appreciate the details of this EP. And there are plenty of them; Troyer favoring multiple low-key motifs over fewer, bolder ones. The eponymous track has a Lawrence-like ambience, but in place of elegant piano or pads, there’s a slow procession of airy chords, like a trundling water wheel. Outside of this, pretty much everything but the percussion could fairly be classed as a stab; even the bass is just a three-note sequence sounding off at sparse intervals.

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In contrast, “The Afternoon Grid” travels at a gentle trot, though the timbre of the synths remains much the same — airy and bright. Here, they alternately move through periods of gradual inflation and deflation, rather than constantly rotating. “Breezy” is much more groove oriented, packing intricate percussion and a mid-paced mass of pulsing synths. It’s the kind of floor sustainer DJs will treasure as a bridge in their sets. “Hunter” might be the record’s strongest cut, purely on the basis of the delay-treated bells and tranquil metallic clink combo it has running through most of its duration. The sounds are all sophisticated and sharp, but ultimately Stills falls foul of that cruel cliché which has dogged so many mastering engineers-cum-producers such as Troyer: a fastidious propensity for details at the expense of composition. There is certainly much to like about the record, but as the cork-dense elements of each track swarm in your ears, it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re hearing lots of disparate, parochial stories, rather than a grand narrative filled with reams of sub-plots.

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