Naum Gabo It's On EP
The sometimes dirty phrase "DJ tool" comes to mind when thinking about Naum Gabo's latest release, and that's not because the It's On EP contains brutally minimal, questionably soulful tracks produced in the name of practicality—no, quite the contrary. But many of the players involved in releasing this EP are specifically known as world-class DJs before they're thought of as producers. J.G. Wilkes, one-half of Naum Gabo, is also one-half of giant Scottish DJ outfit Optimo; the Let's Play House imprint was developed out of an NYC party series put on by long-time DJs Jacques Renault and Nik Mercer in partnership with Throne of Blood, a label run by fellow New York DJ veteran James Friedman. Thus, the work is born from the womb of the house DJ elite, and is likely meant to be delivered into the same community.
It feels kind of trite to place emphasis on ideas of construction in this overtly mechanical/machine-driven genre, but for Naum Gabo, those notions are particularly at the forefront of its work. The Glaswegian duo derives its name from a Russian sculptor who was influential to Constructivism, an art movement which—among other things—was focused on "kinetic" forms of art that were meant to be experienced in a social setting. It's no stretch to apply that philosophy to the modern dancefloor, so here we are with "Ay & Oh" and "It's On," Naum Gabo's two original productions on the EP.
Both tracks build up, break down, drop, and deconstruct within about six minutes at a 120-and-change bpm. They are clean, analog-centric productions, both developed around basslines that don't travel much or cause too much dissonance, but rather erupt on a detuned synth tone in a constant tonal center. House DJ practicality aside, these works have personable and personal character. "Ay & Oh" spurts out raw, unstable synth squeals that distort the mix, and it utilizes sampled vocal bursts to express the track's vibrant energy. On "It's On," a tart, funky bassline beautifully and subtly complements the track's more prominent electro motives.
While Naum Gabo infers a specific artistic concept with its moniker, Tevo Howard invokes a specific artistic philosophy in all of his productions. His remix of "It's On" serves as another document of the producer's brand of humanized Chicago house, following his latest XLR8R Pick'd Monument EP and an XLR8R podcast. The production, clearly rooted in vintage hardware (TR-707s and 727s come to mind, in particular), takes the original track and gives it a more uncompressed, imperfect spin. The digital release comes with an "Acid Remix," too, which seems quite similar to the original remix, with the exception of the bassline being substituted with a 303-sounding squelch. Like the rest of Naum Gabo's It's On EP, this final inclusion is a successful aesthetic move made with the DJ in mind.
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