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  • Filed under: Review
  • 05/01/2013

Citizen So Submissive EP

Having only begun releasing records in late 2011, Citizen's career as a producer is still in its relative infancy. And yet, when the London-based house obsessive otherwise known as Laurence Matthew Blake does get written about, there's one sentiment that is often returned to: that his music speaks for itself. One listen to Blake's latest for Kerri Chandler's MadTech imprint—or his equally potent releases on the Love Fever label—and it's easy to hear why. The man knows house, new and old. While distinctly modern, Citizen's sound draws a line straight back to the soulful height of '90s house, be it from Chicago, Jersey, New York, or his native London.

The EP's title track makes for a pristine example of this cross-generational house sound. Kicking in hard with a vintage garage beat, complete with the pulse of a 909 hi-hat keeping time, "So Submissive" celebrates Blake's love affair with the dancefloor without coming across as a tired rehash, as its jacking beat has been updated for the present with bright key stabs, a synthetic woodblock, and the deep rumble of elongated bass tones. Showcasing his knack for applying vocal textures to his tracks, Blake implements a pitched-down male R&B line, which trades off between melancholic wails and chopped refrains pining over the song's female protagonist.

On the flip, "Stronger with You" is more London than Jersey in its garage influences. The crisp combo of rimshots and cymbal clangs slowly builds into the track's syncopated skip, with the steady drip of minor keys luring listeners into the swirling abyss of its anticipatory breakdown. Returning to the propulsive groove with the addition of subtle low end, Blake reinforces his sampling prowess, letting the track's energy ebb and flow beneath a flourishing chorus of indecipherable vocal samples, pinging in forward and reverse motion through a reverb-drenched echo chamber. The effect imbues his track with a sense of raw sexuality, another overarching quality that makes Blake such a promising new talent.

Labelmates Waze & Odyssey also repay a remix favor, adding some grit to the package with a stomping treatment of "Stronger with You" that's sure to gain more mass appeal than its counterpart. Reworking the track's intricate vocal snippets, the British duo takes more room to breathe, firing them off one at a time over a jacking rhythm that's laced with a deep, wandering synth line. At the same time, though it's expertly produced, Waze & Odyssey's remix fails to capitalize on a lot of the qualities that make Citizen such a rising force. Blake's smart throwback touch, stirring soulfulness, and prominent low end are enviable qualities, and its those elements that set the original productions on this EP apart. It might have been more to the point for Blake to have titled this one So Seductive.

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