Photo by Hussein Chalayan
Back before xxxy was a world-traveling superstar DJ, he caught my ear with the excellent “Know You,” one of the finest tracks in the burgeoning garage revival at that time in 2010. That release was split with two intriguing tracks from a relative unknown Ike Release, and the odd pair make a return together for a follow-up on Infrasonics just over a year and a half later. This time though, I’d level the playing field a bit: Ike Velez shows himself to be every bit the scrappy underdog, with a standout track much like “Know You” was back in the day.
Like most of the releases on Spatial’s Infrasonics label, these vaguely garage-y tunes are spare and exact almost to the point of being antiseptic, but they subsist on sheer momentum and tenacity. In both of his tunes, Velez funnels phased vocals through the background; in the fantastic “Don’t Know” they dart around nervous chord stabs and arpeggios that build tension for what feels like an extremely delayed drop (no drums for 90 seconds). But when the drums do come in, it’s a slippery, sexy pattern where each snare and crisp click feels like it’s sliding off the next in a graceful manner at odds with the track’s austerity. “Outrun” plays with the same palette of dry drums and simple synth sounds, only this time the chords are flattened out into sheets of sound that roll off the more straightforward house progression.
In keeping with some of his more recent material like “You Gotta Do You,” xxxy’s tracks are also quite parched, universes away from the arpeggio explosions of his memorable Ten Thousand Yen track “Ordinary Things.” Think wooden electro and you’ll have an idea of what “Body Movin'” sounds like, all frantic syllables and jittery drums. It might all end up a little flat if those dull drums didn’t suddenly come apart halfway through, thrown around the track recklessly while an unstable bass line squelches and splashes away. Less startling but smoother is “Swing Those Hips,” essentially a modern garage take on the eminently smooth sound of classic Chicago house, warm chords and soft hats sped up to unusual tempos. It’s been well over a year since the last one and things have certainly changed, but there’s no denying that the follow-up xxxy-Ike Release split is just as strong as the first.