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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/27/2012

Roche Auragan / A Night at the Haç

San Francisco's Ben Winans (a.k.a. Roche) hasn't had an official release since 2010's Degage, a digital-only EP of house abstractions in the style of Marcellus Pittman. Two relatively quiet years later, he's resurfaced in a major way with a pair of 12"s for Jamal Moss' Mathematics and Amanda Brown's 100% Silk. Winans seems to have cleaned up his aesthetic for both, at least as far as DJ friendliness is concerned. The two records, Auragan and A Night at the Haç, respectively, show him drawing on traditional tropes—rousing piano stabs, acid lines, and jacking rhythms abound. Winans does a convincing job at pseudo-classicist house, as his arrangements are clean cut and primed for the mix. However, many tend to be slightly overlong, and their second halves dangle without the right amount of momentum.

Auragan opens with "Sans Quimico," perhaps the best track on either EP. Its rhythm is a kind of motorway groove—with sporadic percussion rolls that hit like crashing waves—and its mellow propulsion provides a steady backdrop for Winans' placid arpeggiations and piano patterns. The track is a little redolent of John Daly's work, transforming of a few basic elements into an extended, trance-like jam. "Lftl Eternal" has a more manic arrangement. Its glassy overlay is considerably more frantic than its drums, and, factoring in a growling bass arpeggio, a sense of turmoil pervades. The concluding title track goes for a deeper house motif, replete with filtered organ, soaring, celestial pads, and a low and smudgy bassline. It may have all the genre's trimmings, but it begins to drag halfway through and doesn't really recover.

Winans doesn't exactly replicate the Haçienda sound on A Night at the Haç, but it is a more party-friendly record than Auragan. The opening title track features the sort of ebullient piano house that seems to appear on every other 100% Silk release. It's not an especially daring move, but Winans executes it proficiently. The clattering acid jam "Outsider Insider" is the closest the producer gets to the legendary Manchester club of the record's title, but like its predecessor, it isn't hugely interesting. Moreover, it's shockingly long for such a minimal arrangement; clocking in at nine minutes flat, it's a bit like listening to the same track twice in a row. On the flip, "CG Vision" gives the welcome impression that it's being made up on the spot—jacking claps, wormy bass, and spacey synths weave in and out of the mix almost at random, and halfway through there's an odd drop in volume that suggests Winans is regrouping his resources. Under floating padwork, the closing "Psycho Zombie Dreams" is laced with a buzzing bassline and a filtered stab pattern. Although it also clocks in around nine minutes, it's produced with an urgency lacking in the rest of the EP. Still, Winans is at his best when he's playing with abstraction, and Auragan better showcases this talent on the whole.

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