Together as Graze, Adam Marshall and XI have put together an exceptionally prolific and consistent first year as a production pair. Squeezing in the project's debut LP just before 2013 comes to a close, however, proves to somewhat burden Edges, an elongated effort which, while solid, ultimately falls short of bringing the same sonic impact as Graze's triumphant debut EP.
Truth be told, those who have followed Graze's rise throughout 2013 will find little to outright complain about on Edges. Opening with its strongest cut—and one of the pair's best efforts to date—"Skip/Crush" sets an icy tone for the eight-track record, balancing airy chords and gritty textures with finely tuned low end and a full-bodied skip fashioned from precisely programmed drums and percussive hits. It's not exactly a big dancefloor tune, but "Skip/Crush" nonetheless showcases Graze doing what it does best—melding the more sophisticated ends of bass music with sharply crafted techno to create a uniquely robust hybrid. Coming out the gate so strong though, leaves the rest of Edges straining to catch up to its opening track, and really, much of Graze's existing catalog. A few efforts do come close: "Stack Array" digs deeper than any other LP cut, its floating loops leaving plenty of space for a monstrous bassline; "Ripley" reworks vocal snippets around a simple, but solid, rhythmic framework; and the seven-plus-minute "GoldN" breathtakingly explores the group's knack for dense ambient textures atop a somewhat jittery assemblage of programmed drums.
Still, even while Edges struggles to keep its momentum steady across its 50-minute run, the craftsmanship of Marshall's and XI's work together here is unquestionably stellar. Evolving from their debut, the two producers appear to favor more efficient sonic structures here, utilizing what sounds like only a handful of painstakingly sculpted elements to make up their characteristically strong-armed productions. Edges is never lacking in this regard, as songs like the hyperspeed "Scrap" or the aforementioned "Ripley" are conceptually rather simple—their constructions have been stripped back to only the most essential elements—but Graze uses these sparse palettes to its advantage, creating tracks that contain enough inventive musical phrases to keep the listener's attention, while also leaving an enlarged space for bulbous rhythms and unflinchingly tough low end to inhabit. To their credit, this is really where Marshall and XI shine as producers, and playing to their strengths is certainly a smart choice.
In the end, Graze's debut LP is a bit of a mixed bag. Although the album is impressive in its construction, the lasting power of its eight tracks is a bit questionable, especially considering that most of us are still not done rinsing (or perhaps rediscovering) the pair's stellar debut EP and its numerous standout cuts, all of which easily rise above the bulk of Edges.