Bobby Champs' arrival on the UK scene earlier this year was at once reserved and auspicious in a way most internet-era producers would likely envy. Moonlight, the Brighton-based producer's debut EP for Pictures Music, was released with little hype or fuss, yet its stripped-back, kick-drum-driven techno was met with almost universal praise. Fans of that formula will be pleased to know that Champs hasn't strayed on his follow-up EP for Pictures, Drag Queen, which features another handful of heavy-hitting cuts aimed directly at the dancefloor.
There aren't many surprises on the title track, with Champs once again dishing out a DJ-friendly 32-bar intro of subtly swung 4/4 kicks and wavering synths. However, once the song settles into its groove, the kicks begin to grow in intensity, while the synth branches out further and starts to flirt with a sweat-inducing melody that's too sinister to be dismissed as a euphoric staple. It's a tad more colorful than anything from his previous effort, but the real development here is Champs' confidence, which borders on downright cockiness as the producer offers to do DJs' work for them, sporadically cutting the track completely to create short instances of complete silence after the first breakdown. These cuts are a bit of a cocksure wink from Bobby, as he's assuming the dropouts are powerful enough to warrant the kind of channel-fader trickery usually reserved for clubbing's more intense moments, but they provide an effective switch-up in the song's otherwise linear pace.
On "Latte," Champs contrasts his ham-fisted kicks and grainy shakers with brash, piano-house referencing synths. In doing so, he aligns himself closer to the brand of techno that's currently being championed by Jon Convex and dBridge (operating under his Velvit alias), in which tough, on-the-grid kicks and vicious basslines are softened by melodic, often optimistic keys and pads. In fairness, Champs' synths here are more restrained than those offered up by the likes of Convex, but they're certainly brighter and bolder than those found on any of his previous affairs, ultimately representing something closer to a full laser show than a sole light above a DJ booth on an otherwise pitch-black dancefloor. It's undeniably effective, but as on Moonlight, it's the subtler juxtapositions on the EP which shine brightest, like the 3 a.m. stabs on "Charlie" that permeate the track's grainy synths and heavily distorted vocal cuts.
Interestingly, Champs' most experimental track yet, "Mint400," is excluded from the 12" and reserved for the digital release only. Though the tune favors sound design over groove and makes use of some well-executed panning effects that may make it more appropriate for the headphone crowd, it's obvious that "Mint400" remains tailored for the club in terms of its sheer relentlessness. Channeling René Pawlowitz's tendency to toy with uncomfortable syncopation as Shed, Champs for the first time steers attention away from the kick drum towards a tumbling and industrious low end, creating something that is just as infectious as the more straightforward tunes that make up the rest of this EP. It encouragingly hints towards a potential new direction for the producer and—if this track is anything to go by—it's one that he appears to be very capable of taking.