Even the Sumerians knew it more than 5000 years ago: a proper division of labor is a beautiful thing. In the case of art, you’re more likely to come away with compelling works when each person involved is free to play to their strengths in the service of a central idea. Bristol’s Outboxx is living, breathing proof. Consisting of Jacob Martin (aka Hodge), who works on beats behind the boards, and Matt Lambert, keyboard player with a history in various funk bands, the duo’s music has the easiness of unfettered specialization at work. And while the pair’s tunes are often the result of jam sessions and live takes, the final results — released by a clutch of Bristolian labels including Idle Hands, Immerse Records and Brstl, as well as Brighton’s Well Rounded Housing Project — are finely tuned and deftly arranged. For the Astro Girl EP, their fifth record, Outboxx return to Immerse Records where they first got their start.
Samples from Outboxx’s Astro Girl EP
While the multitude of effervescent synth leads buffeting the title track’s sides suggest an ocean mist, its chewy doublebass line and springy piano refrain offer enough to sink your teeth into. But with so many leads coming and going — sustained strings, lip curling vamps, shimmering stabs — it helps that the duo leave in only a handful at once, all held together by crisp, measured snare patterns and swinging hi-hats. The mischievous, bass-led bounce of “Back To Phalon” is more familiar territory but nonetheless worthy, where a dribbling stream of tones is pounced upon by various chirping leads. The EP closes with the solid electro tune, “Dolph’s Vision,” which painstakingly recreates the resonating bass line and glancing synth timbres found in dusty 80s platters. But its biggest payoff is the way the array of leads coalesce around one subtle yet beautiful arpeggio spiraling skywards after the break. The Astro Girl EP contains the duo’s most confident and accessible tunes to date, including one no self-respecting open air DJ will want to leave home without. Chalk up another for the ol’ division of labor.