[Short Black Records]
Based on Short Black’s first release, you could be forgiven for assuming a strictly-local ethos. For starters, the Melbourne-based label is named in honor of the city’s fanatical coffee culture, and its first signing was Matt Kennedy, a young local. But record number two, Time Division’s Memory of Shape, blasts that conception out of the Arabica-infused water. It’s a truly global thing, signed by a Swede — Short Black owner Johan Elgstrom — produced by two Frenchmen, and twice remixed by Americans.
Accordingly, it’s not a record which feels tied to any particular place. “Shape One” and “Shape Two” are sparse bits of rolling tech house which would feel at home in many an after-hours DJ set, if only for their lack of bold features. Groove is the key here, with swirling, dubby textures almost an afterthought. Both recall Daniel Stefanik’s later work, particularly for labels such as Kann, albeit with a smaller room feel. “Shape One” drags itself down somewhat by throwing Detroit-referencing vocals into the mix, a move that feels more contrived than anything.
Amir Alexander’s remix doesn’t do away with the vocals all together, but it does get more creative with them, shorting out the sample among flares of jaunty synth and distracted drumming. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Udacha, the Russian label that so perfectly blends jazz and house tropes with an improvised feel. Like Amir Alexander’s effort, Dakini9’s remix of “Shape Two” feels more sophisticated than the flat-footed original it draws from. Here, the original’s insistent groove is submerged into a line of swaying drums and moody chords. But in doing so, there’s also a sense that Dakini9’s pursuit of subtlety caused her to lose sight of the overall picture. At times, it’s hard to appreciate the track advancing anywhere, pleasant as its blanketing textures are. For certain dance floors — and home listeners — this feel, which dominates Memory of Shape, will be a boon. For the most part, though, it seems like Amir Alexander’s remix is the only cut that’ll truly get hearts fluttering.