"I hear a vibe and steal it!" So says the Facebook page of Last Magpie. It's an unusual ethos, but it's served as something of a rallying cry for the mysterious producer, an artist who's often relied upon liberal pilfering while crafting his small handful of releases for Hypercolour and its Losing Suki sub-imprint. With bits and pieces interpolated (though more often blatantly sampled), it's understandable as to why his identity is deliberately kept under wraps. Yet while previous releases have looked elsewhere for inspiration, 1995 feels at times bit like a snake biting its tail, as it occasionally looks to Last Magpie's own back catalog for inspiration.
This realization actually comes at the EP's end. After three tracks of driving interpretations of house, garage, and early 2-step, "Fallen" sees the producer drop his guard as he literally rips the lead-ish bassline from "No More Stories," his debut from earlier this year, to create what amounts to almost the exact same song—minus the crucial vocals and razor-sharp percussion. Of the song, the EP's press release states that Last Magpie "is adept at crafting catchy bangers, [and] this one might just be his most assured track to date"—the catch being that "Fallen" pretty much sounds just like the track that was previously his most assured to date. Of course, it's not exactly the same, but the degree of similarity almost demands comparison.
On the other hand, the more uptempo and, by contrast, less self-referential works are all strong in their own way. Opener "1995" is a multi-colored blast of laser shots and stuttering diva vocals led by the straightforward four-to-the-floor charge of '90s house. Described in such terms, it might come off as though this is just another retro attempt, but its rumbling bassline and echoes of dub ensure that there's enough mixture of references that it never comes off like an intentional shot at a specific vintage.
"Hypno" drops all house pretensions and moves towards a loose, woodblock-led dubstep rhythm. Generating a cavernous amount of space, heavily reverbed found-sound recordings of a city are given life by a massive Reese bass and a voice warbling "Playin'/Stop playin' with my heart." Organs rise and then fall as the percussion picks up the pace, almost setting up a perfect segue into the similarly pad-heavy "Roots." Here though, it's all uptempo, a TR-909 hammering away beneath a vortex of blurting vocals. Riding a build-up with pads suspiciously reminiscent of 808 State's "Pacific," it drops right down into retro-futuristic UK garage nostalgia with pumping sub-bass, vertigo-inducing pitch shifts, and jazzy stabs. And while its most unique element might bring to mind certain oceanic qualities, there's nothing aquatic here—it's all upfront in the mix, blaring out of speakers with a pirate-radio bravado. And, as of now, it's that kind of attitude that seems to bring out the best in the Leeds-based producer's work.