Basic Soul Unit (a.k.a. Stuart Li) last appeared on our radar in October when his second LP, Under The Same Sky, was released on Dekmantel. Though Li is largely ingrained in the collective mind for his Chicago stylings and grainy deep house, the album saw the Toronto-based producer adroitly revealing a more techno facet to his persona, one that had been hinted at via previous flirtations with more techno-oriented material on labels like Nonplus. Given that, his return to the shelves on Stockholm techno label Skudge Records doesn't come off as a huge surprise.
Li doesn’t mess about on opener "Ruckup," as a dirty booming kick sets the record in motion. An intoxicated synth takes the lead, gathering dirt and steadily elbowing its way to the front before dropping out, leaving a satisfying beat to finish the job. It's simple and effective. The heart of the record takes an industrial detour, starting with the fractured rhythm of "Heatseeker." An anxious alarm keeps the listener on his toes while laser-precise acid bursts take vehement, eardrum-damaging stabs, with the whole affair serving as a fitting soundtrack to a caving expedition gone wrong. "Church Pews" straightens the flow with minimal skipping drum work; dreamy keys take on a hypnotic role while solemn pads seep through every single crevasse, flooding the track with monastic depth. Li stays in the deep end to close shop with final track, "Moonlit," with the cut swelling to a beautifully dubby and atmospheric finale.
Basic Soul Unit’s Skudge debut is, sonically, a somewhat Spartan affair. The more rave-leaning influences of Under The Same Sky have taken a backseat—but Li’s lo-fi approach to production still works its magic, and the EP's deeper moments are gorgeous. His steps into industrial territory are a particular highlight, and it would be great to hear him push the antagonism between his deep and hard-hitting identities further.