West Norwood Cassette Library 8 Track Cartridge EP
At present, there's no shortage of dance music mining the sounds of classic house, garage, and jungle for inspiration. West Norwood Cassette Library—the alias of West London producer Bob Bhamra—could be filed into this category, but his work also offers a refreshingly skewed take on dance music's past. Straying from some of the more obvious revivalist modes doing the rounds right now, Bhamra instead hones in on numerous points of collision, exploring the areas where house bleeds into breaks and where the sleek, classicist sounds of US garage meet the rough edges of UK garage. 8 Track Cartridge is a double-12" odds-and-ends collection that sees Bhamra pulling together an appropriately diverse set of gems that he's produced over the last couple of years. What's immediately striking is his production style; marked by brittle drums, funky basslines, and jarring transitions, the music is bathed in luminous strains of bright, analog scuzz. In contrast to the dominant strain of garage-house that's currently flooding the UK with big, anthemic chords and rounded bass notes, West Norwood Cassette Library offers a welcome change of pace.
8 Track Cartridge's opening track—the misleadingly named "Acid Jazz"—pairs Todd Terry-style breakbeats with an acid-house bassline, and while some elements of the tune are a bit derivative, the overall pastiche is so compelling that it hardly matters. Bhamra revisits UK garage circa 1997 on "We Have to Live in the Future," which sees rolling basslines and dusty, reverb-drenched piano chords evoking the slow-burning classics of that era. Less derivative is "Roots," an eight-minute-long tune where Bhamra once again utilizes plenty of acid house squelch, but this time, it's in service of ambling breakbeats. Halfway through, however, the track undergoes a massive shift, speeding up considerably and taking the breakbeats into a kind of drum & bass overdrive. 8 Track Cartridge is never short of compelling—and a large part of this stems from Bhamra's refusal to stick to one style—but it also never really moves beyond its influences. Despite this, there's a real inventiveness to some of the productions on the EP, as well as an endearing restlessness, that makes the release a compelling entry in the current landscape of retro-leaning house music.
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