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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/19/2012

Kevin McPhee WNCL012

Maybe this goes without saying, but Kevin McPhee's production approach seems nowhere near the end of its evolutionary period. Since appearing on the scene early last year, the Toronto-based artist has undergone a fast-paced transformation, shedding the R&B-touches and spacey chords of his earliest output for tougher, more dancefloor-aligned tracks. His debut for West Norwood Cassette Library is the latest documentation of such; existing somewhere between hard-edged techno and shuffling bass music (with some classic dubstep nods thrown in for good measure), McPhee proves again to be a talent who's not constricted to any specific genre.

In WNCL's brief notes that accompany the four-track EP, the record is described as McPhee "[getting] his clonk on," and while that may be a rather ambiguous statement, it does somehow ring true. Often on these four efforts, the various clanks and clunks of off-kilter percussion—both sampled and synthesized—lead the way, creating atonal loops and phrases that ride atop the rugged drum programming. The opening "In Circles" fits an uncountable number of crackling hits and rolling hand drums in between its massive four-on-the-floor, and the b-side cuts, "Pumpkin" and "The Blind Whirring of Machinery," feature patterns of metallic and industrial-sounding hits that ride the line between space-age percussion and sequenced synth.

Whether or not it's because McPhee utilizes actual analog hardware (we'd like to imagine he does), this entire EP somehow manages to tap into the untamed sound that is usually the result of tweaked noisemakers who aren't controlled directly by a computer. Similar to the work of KiNK or Cosmin TRG's more recent efforts, there's a thin layer of overloaded haze that marks the more present elements—the kicks, snares, and occasional synth or percussion leads that momentarily spin out of control—and furthermore, the overall product is thrown through some heavy-handed compression in the process. But these songs never come off as too aggressive or over-the-top, even when "Do" unleashes a monstrous—dare we say wobbly—bassline and dubstep skip or "Pumpkin" ceaselessly pushes deeper into its stuttering shuffle. Without a doubt, this EP houses the most edgy and forceful tunes McPhee's made to date, but it still goes to show that the young producer is an impeccable craftsman while serving as another of his absolutely solid outings.

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