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  • Filed under: Review
  • 03/30/2012

Midland Placement EP

After two years of releasing music, both as a solo artist and with his good friend Ramadanman (now more commonly referred to as Pearson Sound), Midland (a.k.a. Harry Agius) has yet to release a disappointing record. With Placement, the Leeds-based producer continues with his streak of high-quality releases, adeptly blending elements of techno and garage into subtly emotional house on his return to Will Saul’s Aus Music imprint. Although Midland doesn’t delve into especially unique territory on the four-song EP, his genre-bending compositions expertly encapsulate current trends from various corners of forward-thinking electronic music. As such, his tunes are not only well-suited for late nights at the club, but are also informed by indie-oriented acts, with obvious similarities to chillwave and the popular cinematic slow jams of Nicolas Jaar. Accordingly, Placement isn’t simply a house record itching to be squeezed into a DJ set, but also something that offers a pleasant and contemplative at-home experience.

Placement kicks off with "Tape Burn," a lushly building track that serves well as the EP's warm-up number. Midland's intricate production work is on full display here, with extremely detailed textures creating a warm and palpable backing to his drifting melodies. For example, rather than employing a more traditional snare or clap, Midland uses quiet finger snaps to keep time for most of the track, waiting until the song is nearly over before bringing in a more conspicuous beat.

The second and third tracks on the EP are the release's legitimate dance jams. The title track begins with a rollicking bit of percussion and piano chords, gradually adding more layers of synth and percussion, and eventually hitting its stride after an extended buildup when a simple synth melody moves to the forefront. The song is dreamy and detailed, but still heavy enough for club play. "What We Know" follows "Placement" and moves into even denser realms with its layers of synths, bass, and chopped vocal snippets. Again, Midland's mastery of percussion is notable, with the track's introductory mid-range kick showing off a sort of squishiness that blurs the line between the song's various sounds. "What We Know" also contains the EP's standout bassline, which mirrors the song's backing synths and interplays terrifically with the vocal snippets and effectively uncomplicated melody.

"Tail Ender" closes the EP with a major departure from the straightforward house of the previous two songs, diverging from four-on-the-floor into a syncopated garage rhythm. The tune is the EP's spaciest, featuring elongated synth notes behind an arpeggiation of an unusual chord. The drum work on the track doesn't move the song forward, but instead meshes with the background hisses, echoes, and stretched-out notes to create a rich atmospheric coda. It provides a fine finish to Placement, the latest entry in Midland's excellent stream of records derived from the haunting and beautiful borderlands of electronic music.

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