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  • Filed under: Review
  • 10/15/2012

214 Submanouvers

Seattle's Chris Roman has a discography stretching back to 2002, but only in the last few years has he truly come into his own. He's spread his productions as 214 and J. Alvarez across a variety of labels, seemingly releasing every record for a new company. This nomadism should not imply that Roman is a dilettante, however. He's forged a take on electro that's both flexible and tough as nails, and that list of labels is a testament to the various pockets his sound slots into. That said, Submanoevers finds him returning to Frustrated Funk after a turn for its Harbour City Sorrow sub-label last year, and the EP's four tracks sit comfortably in its catalog.

Roman opens with "First Descent (FF Edit)," a short, ominous piece that takes a page from the book of Gerald Donald, as he lets its delirious, luffing arpeggiation do most of the talking. On the creeping “Bluetooth Clone,” a hostile bassline darts amid a slathering of hi-hats and cowbells, the drooping synths in the background lending some intrigue to an otherwise grimly metallic arrangement. The title track picks up the pace, its croaking, robotic vocal and caustic synthlines underlaid with bumping, frenetic drums. "Frostbite" closes proceedings with a bit of contrast—its chirping arpeggios and volatile rhythm are paired with solemn, filtered-down chords that engulf the track in melancholy. All this may read like a laundry list of electro motifs, and to be sure, Roman is operating within the genre’s parameters. Recent efforts like Plastic Spokes, recorded for Fortified Audio, found him introducing motifs culled from R&B, deep house, and UK bass; those styles barely rear their heads on Submanouvers. But while they may not overtly cross any boundaries, Roman’s tracks here are built with momentum in mind and imbued with a crisp bounce that’s often lacking in the work of his more po-faced peers.

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