Salva, Complex Housing

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It’s widely acknowledged that music is cyclical, that styles churn and morph on the backs of preceding sounds and scenes. New ideas become less important than how an artist filters his or her influences. As the head of the Frite Nite label and party collective, Paul Salva is no stranger to the vibrant intersection of electro and modern bass music happening across the world. Complex Housing, his debut album, offers as many moments of nostalgia as of fresh combinations.

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As the album opens with a quiet intro of samples of laughing children and head-snapping snares, we are introduced to two of Salva’s signatures: a thick synthetic bass line and soaring melodic pads. Frenetic and pumped up, “Beached” doesn’t quite fit into the “modern funk” sound dominated by Dam-Funk, but that bubbling, undulating bass line certainly keeps the dance floor in a state of boogie. On follow-up “Wake Ups,” this funky tendency becomes more complicated with a Prefuse 73-style melody, granular bits shifted and clipped with abandon amid a flurry of tom runs. Both of these songs easily fit into the LA-leaning scene, a place where 80s electro and R&B get pushed and tweaked. Indeed, LA local Lazer Sword’s Lando Kal turns in a remix of Complex Housing‘s only vocal track, the subtle, slinky “40 Karats” featuring Zackey Force Funk’s falsetto. His version adds a thumping bass kick and sharper snare pattern as well as disintegrating the melody and vocal in true cut-up fashion.

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The beefy garage style of “Keys Open Doors” may seem out place next to the cut ‘n’ paste beats of “Beached” and “Wake Ups” but there is a common thread of funkiness propelling both styles. The short riff that forms the backbone of the melody couldn’t be anything other than a R&B throwback, recalling classic Teddy Riley mixed with Chicago house. “I’ll Be Your Friend,” meanwhile, is practically a cover of Robert Owen’s tune of the same name, layering his sensuous vocals between the jittery rimshots, dreamy pads, and amalgamated funk progressions. One of the strongest tracks, “Issey Miyake” is unfortunately one of the shortest as well. Before the electro bass breaks through halfway in, jumping percussion patterns and shuddering synth hits convey energy and suggest tongue-in-cheek mood. Heavily affected synth riffs cascade across the rhythms with deep vocal samples in tow, propeling each section of the song into the next in true electro fashion. In a similar vein, “Baroque” and “Icey” make a case for Salva’s electro background. The former is the more experimental of the two, its fidgeting melody and percussion patterns standing in contrast to the drawn out pads and synths in the background. “Icey,” however, achieves the soaring sound “Issey Miyake” only hinted at; it’s one of those tunes sure to make people sway to the melody.

The languid, slowly unfurling tableau of “Weird Science” is a track that takes multiple spins to fully appreciate. In the face of the rest of the album’s hyper funk, this song is comparatively introspective, leaving its beats scattered and loose, its melodies stretched out, and its many arpeggios thicker than shag carpet. Coming before the humorously lighthearted final track “Blue,” it’s a strange juxtaposition that accentuates eccentric quality of Complex Housing. Where “Weird Science” was subtle for Salva, “Blue” is in your face, giant beats battering your ears, 8-bit squiggles zipping by, and a thick bass wall thudding behind every kick. Whether it’s his high strung dance floor tunes or more laid-back moments that catch your ear, Complex Housing is a compelling statement of intent from this persuasive new voice.

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