Dusky Nobody Else EP
As the market for bass-heavy revivalist house races toward the point of oversaturation, well-curated labels like Aus Music—Will Saul's and Fink's reassuringly consistent outlet for leftfield club music—are more necessary than ever. Similarly, it's fortunate that artists like Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman (a.k.a. Dusky) exist; along with a handful of peers, including the likes of Bicep and George Fitzgerald, the pair forms part of a small vanguard of rising producers who can be trusted to breath a little personality into the seemingly endless wave of garage-tinged house records that are currently dominating the UK's dancefloors. Here, the London-based twosome returns—buoyed by the sleeper success of last year's Justin Martin remix—with a four-track EP that combines plenty of straightforward dancefloor pleasures with a decent amount of sonic creativity.
The eponymous opener is the most straightforward and probably the least exciting of the four tracks here. It's a relatively simple—albeit pleasantly soulful—work of deep house, complete with bouncy claps, a rising vocal loop, and a three-note bass hook. That said, it's by no means a weak tune, as the backdrop of arpeggiated synths and scattershot percussion hits are enough to keep "Nobody Else" from feeling too generic. It feels, however, like a track that's been designed to slide into a club set with a minimum of hassle rather than one intended to push any boundaries.
Fortunately, as the EP progresses, Dusky begins to loosen up a bit. "What I Never Knew" sticks with the bouncy 4x4 beat, but strips back the vocals and synth lines to create something far moodier and more slow burning than the track that preceded it. Here, Granger-Howell and Harriman take a simplistic house chord progression and go to town with the filters and atmospherics, allowing the track to gradually morph into something altogether darker and grittier as it progresses. Closing track "Dummy" works around a fairly similar template; the pair takes a driving, repetitive house groove and elaborates on it with increasingly incomprehensible bursts of effect-drenched vocals.
"Atone" is the standout track here though. It sees the duo marry its melodic tendencies to a harder, rhythmically ambitious template. The soul samples and synth pads are replaced by crudely chopped vocal syllables, a rough percussive lead, and a distorted kick pattern that's pure grime. Dusky's deep-house roots are still there though, and the track eventually gives way to a brilliantly melodic breakdown that wouldn't sound out of place in a Kerri Chandler tune. It doesn't exactly tear up the rulebook, but it certainly cements the notion that Dusky is at its best when the duo is testing the boundaries of classic house a little. Still, while this sort of vintage-leaning house continues to be a dominant force within contemporary dance music, it's fortunate that there are artists like Dusky who know how to sneak the occasional curveball into the tried and tested 4x4 blueprint.
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