London's MA1 is a veteran DJ, someone who came up in the late-'90s/early-'00s garage scene and eventually found his way onto Rinse FM, where he continues to pilot a weekly show. Although he oversees his own Karnival Music label, he hasn't exactly been a prolific producer over the years, which makes his latest offering, the four-song Elektron EP, quite possibly the highest-profile MA1 release to date.
It's no surprise that the Elektron EP is being released via the Deep Teknologi imprint, as MA1's relationship with label heads T. Williams and S.E.F. goes way back. Furthermore, the EP follows an aesthetic that's very much in line with the label's previous output, in that the music is rather stripped down and doesn't feature much in the way of bells and whistles. The big drums—which, of course, have a distinct UK shuffle and display an undeniable African flavor—are what's most important here, and while there are melodies to be found, they're simplistic to the point that they almost function as another rhythmic element within each track.
That simplicity is both the EP's most glaring drawback and its biggest strength. Plainly put, nothing on the Elektron EP is particularly groundbreaking. Even the strongest selections, "Elektron" and "Kente," both of which nod heavily toward kwaito and South African house, aren't exactly memorable, especially when consumed on their own.
That said, these songs aren't meant to be listened to that way. First and foremost, MA1 is a DJ, and within the context of a DJ set, a few minutes of any of these tunes could do some serious damage—in a good way, of course. MA1's tracks may not be complex, but they are incredibly effective DJ tools, and the thick, rolling basslines, snappy drums, and hooky synth melodies that populate the Elektron EP are clearly geared towards booming soundsystems. It's hard to appreciate this concept when the music is emanating from laptop speakers or standard-issue iPod earbuds, but MA1 is an artist who spends a lot more time behind the decks than he does in the production studio. And as the Elektron EP demonstrates, his mind remains centered on the dancefloor.