When we last checked in with Renaissance Man back in January, the Finnish duo had just released its Call2Call EP, a six-track offering of dark, inventive, percussive, and bass-heavy club music via Turbo. A lot has happened in the five months since then, however; the pair has been hard at work creating its very own label, Black Ocean, as well as that venture's three-track inaugural offering: Early Man.
The record gets off to an exciting start with the first track, "UFO (Who R U)," which opens with loud, squealing samples that slowly coalesce with a dark and foreboding arpeggiated lead as bouncing drums and dark, swirling bass churn in the background. Suddenly, Renaissance Man ups the momentum, meticulously sprinkling in short fills and unexpected snare strikes. Of all the elements at work, the call-and-response samples (which are immediately recognizable as the same ones used in Rob Base's 1988 rap hit "It Takes Two") are just about the only things in the track that stay relatively constant. "UFO (Who R U)" is an off-kilter affair, but its chaotically organized atmosphere and interesting use of melody are very much in keeping with what made Call2Call such an interesting listen.
That said, the rest of the EP doesn't quite take the same direction. "Early Man," the record's midpoint, is much more grounded than its predecessor, and slowly builds upon a pulse-like bass throb, maintaining a steady bounce as hi-hat rattles and an infectious whining synth melody are slowly piled on. The track doesn't really go anywhere beyond that, though it is certainly an enjoyable listen, even if it's a little stripped down and simplistic by Renaissance Man standards. "Hard Feeling" livens things up a bit—and perhaps steals the show—with its snappy backbeat, which comes replete with glitchy clicks, snips, and buzzes, all coupled with a distant lead forged from gliding synths.
If there's one thing that is apparent about Early Man, it's that Renaissance Man doesn't underutilize its talent when it comes creating melodies; whereas the melodies on Call2Call were often subdued (and sometimes snuffed out before they could really develop), Early Man's three tracks give this aspect of the music breathing room, and occasionally even place them at the forefront of the productions. It's a new—and more accessible—direction for Renaissance Man, and, if the duo chooses to continue pursuing it, tracks like "Hard Feeling" certainly make for a strong start.