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  • Filed under: Review
  • 04/08/2013

T-Polar Feetwork EP

Despite having a title that hints toward Chicago and juke, Feetwork—the latest release from prolific Northern Irish producer T-Polar—actually comprises a handful tracks that pay tribute to the energetic shuffle of early UK garage. Each of the three original tunes here is constructed out of building blocks borrowed from the point where the sounds of '90s pirate radio began to morph into rough-edged mainstream pop, and all three have been arranged in a charmingly ramshackle and hectic manner.

"Feetwork" kicks things off in energetic fashion. Its opening spoken-word vocal sample brings to mind '90s hip-hop, but the track quickly realigns itself, thanks to a classic repitched vocal and bouncy synth melody. Midway through, T-Polar brings in an aggressive jungle bassline and retro synthesizer hook that could have been lifted wholesale out of a turn-of-the-century grime instrumental, but eventually lets the track dissolve into a dense patchwork of retro synths, euphoric vocal stabs, and tightly wound snare hits. While none of these elements are exactly unique, "Feetwork" packs enough nostalgic familiarity to make up for whatever it lacks in original sounds. Moreover, there's a rough-and-ready quality to its production which really suits the style, adding a feeling of energy and authenticity to the track.

T-Polar repeats this trick on the two tracks that follow. "Twinkletoes" combines a chopped-up R&B hook with whip-like grime snares and ever-so-slightly discordant synth lines to create something that's rhythmically infectious, yet slightly disorientating. "Little Big Man," meanwhile, works a full-blown commercial piano-house riff in amongst the other throwback elements to end the run of originals in gloriously anthemic fashion.

It's unfortunate then, that the "Feetwork" remix provided by Unknown—a producer best known for the mildly cringe-inducing overemphasis they put on their anonymity—lets down the EP fairly drastically. With its heavily filtered garage beat, by-the-numbers rave sub, and reverb-drenched vocal cuts, Unknown merely serves to turn T-Polar's original into something that sounds like it's been knocked up by some overzealous teenager who's just heard Untrue for the first time. It's a shame, as there's a lot to like about the rest of this release.

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