Midland "Trace" b/w "For (Yacht) Club Use Only"
Midland is a savvy name choice for a producer wedged, at least in music fans' imaginations, somewhere between the '90s-house revival and the bass-music diaspora. The unassuming Harry Agius does something unique with those expectations, neither living up to nor refusing them outright. From a thoughtful podcast that canes tracks from Jan Hammer Group and Aaron-Carl alike to a hard-hitting collaboration with Pariah on his and Blawan's Works the Long Nights label, the London producer's music has a particular satisfaction that arrives on Agius' own respectful and humble terms. His latest 12" for Aus Music—the label he debuted on with Ramadanman back in 2010—reinforces Midland's reputation for workable, timeless-sounding house.
From the get-go, it's clear this single is more assertive and cleanly produced than last year's pillowy, tape-hiss-cushioned Placement EP. "Trace" is a big-shouldered house track that's brash by Midland standards. With disruptively foregrounded tom hits, its contrasting, mumbling vocal sample slithers over the top of a toothsome bassline without exactly slotting comfortably into the arrangement. Midland breaks it down and builds it back up with a sure hand, but doesn't end up making a particularly compelling statement. "For (Yacht) Club Use Only," on the other hand, forgoes oddly chopped samples for a rhythm workout: a dry, popping snare races against a fuzzy bass bleat and conveyor-belt hi-hats in a sort of musical run-on sentence until some staggered, marimba-like sounds give the forward rush some shape and texture. One of Midland's assets is his patience, namely the assured way he paces his tracks, and though his authorial stamp is all over the pacing and sounds of "Trace" and "For (Yacht) Club Use Only," the tracks run toward the generic when considered holistically.
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