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  • Filed under: Review
  • 03/13/2013

Citizen Trax EP

Though it's one thing to duplicate the sounds of Kerri Chandler, it's another thing altogether to receive the master's seal of approval. This is the case with London-based producer Citizen (a.k.a. Laurence Matthew Blake), who made his debut two years ago on Chandler's then-recently unveiled Madtech sublabel. In that short span of time, he's developed a production style that blends brash '90s references with more modern and often breakdown-oriented song structures. 2012 saw the release of Room Service, his Love Fever debut, and now he's back on the London imprint with the Trax EP.

It opens with the storm-cloud shuffle of "Everything." This is house through a gloomy and occasionally psychedelic lens, with a thick fog of delay-treated atmospheric synth effects. It's relatively subtle, and that's a good thing, taking a different route than the overt exuberance that's marked some of his earlier releases. The rhythm too is well designed, with a breakbeat-like pattern that slips in almost imperceptibly beneath the jacking patter that hits in the highs.

By contrast, "Worship + Tribute (Your Love)" is big, stomping, and anthemic; there's no doubt that it will be the most rinsed song on this record. It's an unabashed ode to '90s garage house that recalls Chandler's own "Insomnia Again," with stabby jazz chords providing a relentless high-energy drive. A female diva and backup chorus, presumably sampled from somewhere, provide the hook with a call-and-response riff that volleys "your love" against "my love." But like many things that offer immediate appeal, it's also the EPs weakest link. There's just not a whole lot of depth to it. Its stop-start arrangement, while perhaps echoing the call-and-response of the vocal, is just a little too predictable and doesn't leave a DJ much room for live improvisation. There's also the issue of the track's sound palette itself, which is pretty overcooked in 2013.

Things get a little more interesting and atmospheric when the ambient waves of "Glastique" first wash in. Like "Everything," it falls on the more subdued side of the spectrum, with descending ethereal chords joined by chopped 12-bit vocals that disappear and return, whispering "doctor love." The structure practices restraint, building pressure throughout the track before finishing off with a mellow climax that lets the rhythm and sample work shine through momentarily. It might not emanate from deep within the bowels of house, but it does show a young producer quickly finding a new and distinguished voice for himself.

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