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  • Filed under: Review
  • 10/03/2013

DVA Fly Juice/Mad Hatter

Fly Juice/Mad Hatter, the latest release from DVA (a.k.a. Leon Smart), pairs an EP of previously released tracks (from last year's Fly Juice record) with a new EP (Mad Hatter). It's 12 tracks long and clocks in at 50 minutes, but it isn't an album. Smart has a notoriously lively personality, and this absolutely comes through in his music. Comprising these two separate efforts, the record is all over the place, sometimes even switching styles in the course of a single track. Perhaps to bolster this madcap approach, it comes complete with a pair of DJ Rashad remixes, which are advanced as ever.

Several of Smart's tracks are characterized by breakdowns into seemingly unrelated samples; "Mad Hatter" delves into boogie, while "Gang Gang Riddim" diverts into dancehall. These twists are essentially instructions as to how to properly enjoy this music—in the most exuberant state of inebriation possible. There is simply no other circumstance in which these abrupt left turns make sense. "Chilli Burrito" only makes this clearer. The track's arcade rave is underlaid with a sample of an American girl talking merrily about ecstasy, and closes on the darkly comical phrase, "The only bad thing that'll happen is that I'll have a seizure." Smart's style is typically a garish fusion of bassy staggers and plastic videogame sounds, so when he deviates from this mode, or at least introduces a more emotional element, it's a kind of pleasant shock. "Long Street," featuring Big Space, is highlighted by its bent synthline (which is perhaps too straightforward to be called a pad, but acts in a similar way), which feels like a respite in the context of the record, while "Shook" does the same thing with laser ripples and needlepoint synths.

DVA's place is undoubtedly in the club, and Fly Juice/Mad Hatter's tail end makes the most sense in a conventional DJ set. The instrumental of French Fries' "Ganja" remix has the sparsest, easiest swing here, while DJ Rashad is able to streamline "Walk it Out" and "Fly Juice" with his signature style. Like DVA, Rashad inserts a seemingly unrelated soul sample into the former, but after its introduction, he keeps it going, infusing it into the track's speedy drums and fluctuating subs. His take on "Fly Juice," meanwhile, incorporates woozy chords and a sparkling arpeggio around a vocal repeating "I love it." Both producers bring a certain hyperactive energy; Rashad offers a sort of choppy, controlled chaos, while DVA is reckless and twisted.

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