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  • Filed under: Review
  • 01/25/2013

Santiago Salazar Rise EP

There's a moment in the middle of "Gaffs Theme," the second track on this EP from LA's Santiago Salazar, where an overarching synth line starts to sound very much like a burnished trumpet mournfully lost in the mix. The unhurried melody it describes is suggestively forlorn; even after Salazar reveals its synthetic origins, digging it out of whatever filter gave it that brassy warmth, he's managed to confuse the listener about whether this EP is as straight-ahead as it seems on the surface.

An affiliate of Detroit's Underground Resistance who has worked closely with Mike Banks, Salazar's solo productions are likewise purely DJ focused, shunning personality in favor of utility, although they're never austere. Despite living in Detroit for a number of years before returning to LA, Salazar's vibe hews closer to Southern California house party than Motor City futurism, and Rise is one of his warmest releases to date. Soaring over crashing surf and easygoing 16th-note hi-hats, the yearning riff from "Gaffs Theme" hints at a deeper soulfulness that only makes the techno architecture more impressive—there's a lack of flash on both sides that speaks to the quality of his education.

It's also a way of indicating that Rise is a no-frills affair which also delivers on headphones. This is apparent from the opening moments of "Caramelized Biotics," where a warm, sepia-tinted Rhodes-and-sax loop is introduced and remains the focus throughout, a move that's more in the vein of Andrés' "New for U" than Salazar's previous work would have suggested. "Stress Valve" is distinct from the EP's other two tracks in that it puts one of those flicking, icily restrained Robert Hood arpeggios at its center, but a bucking bassline, fine mist of choral pads, and an indistinct rattle of chimes keeps the track decidedly toasty.

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