Ben La Desh Wondering What We Are
Ben La Desh may reside half a world away from Young Adults' LA offices, but musically, the Rotterdam-based producer occupies a space that's right at home with the breezy house sound the label has been championing since it launched last year. Propulsive, deep, and jazzy, La Desh's "Let Us Down" was a natural fit for the balmy bonhomie of Young Adults' House Slippers compilation from this past spring. And now, with his first EP for the imprint, Wondering What We Are, La Desh both strengthens this bond and shows that he's broadening his musical palette a bit along the way.
The richly textured disco funk of "Afrodesia" cozies up closest to La Desh's sweet spot. Wrapped up in sheets of rhythmic guitar and synth tones, and thick with the residue of soulful strings, the track draws inspiration from the same place as G-funk era Dr. Dre—he's just swapped out the chronic-laced boom-bap for a house beat. As La Desh's most fully realized composition here, the song is confidently maximal—it's the house-music equivalent of cruising the strip at dusk with the top back. The low-slung Cali-disco motif carries on with a distinct tempo shift on "Your Love." Adopting a Latin-tinged, halftime slink, it ebbs and flows with muted brass, delicate rimshots, and a slow succession of laidback disco loops. The track shares the slow burn of early Mark E or The Revenge, nailing the hypnotizing quality of the those artists' rolling groovers. At the same time, it never delivers the unexpected twist, turn, or vocal release that often makes those edits so compelling.
B-side cuts "We Are" and "Why Don't You" go straight for the late-night, deep-house vibe. The fluid drum riffs and simple flute melody of "We Are" give off a cosmic jazz-dance feeling as they unspool over billowy puffs of soothing synth tones, and they make for what could be a pristine entry in Gilles Peterson's wheelhouse. "Why Don't You" reinvigorates the EP in its final turn with clamoring percussion, the quick clip of synth stabs, and a bulbous bassline that burrows its way through the track, lending a touch of edginess and offsetting the more easygoing moments here. If one takes the EP's title literally, the music on Wondering What We Are does seem to indicate that he's actively exploring the question. He may not have the answer just yet, but he's certainly working with confidence.
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