On its second EP, Project E (a collaboration between Mark E and keyboardist Nat Woodcock) takes a more relaxed approach to its retro-tinged house concoctions than we've heard previously. As it turns out, this suits the project better, making the Kinks EP a more captivating and repeatable listen than the pair's initial outing.
In comparison to this record, Project E's debut, Megacity, seemed a bit unsure of itself; more playful in its approach, the three-song effort basked in its love for retro, disco-flavored house but seldomly ventured outside of this infatuation. On Kinks, Mark E and Woodcock seem to strut with more confidence, and while they're still indulging in the pleasures of a classic house sound, the artists make their own personalities much more prevalent this time around. The title track will sound familiar to Mark E fans; pumping at a low-swung 115 bpm, it quickly draws the listener in with a thick kick and enticing bassline. But there's a twist: a demented vocal, like a pitched-down robot, preempts a luscious collection of pads and a bouncing snare pattern, the two of which eventually combine to form the base of the spacious track. "Kinks" is the kind of song that feels as though it's constantly simmering towards some greater climax, but it never quite gets there. Instead, Woodcock relieves the building tension in smaller spurts, adding tasteful glimpses of gliding synth solos that never quite take over, but still lead the listener pleasantly through each section.
"Kinks" may threaten to steal the show here, but the EP's other two offerings certainly aren't dead weight. "Boy in the Straw Hat" takes on a similar tempo and feel as the opening cut, but moves into deeper ends with heavier rhythms and a gurgling acid bassline. The lengthy "Umbrella Creature" is the most driving track on the EP, and also the one that most sounds like a direct descendant of Project E's Midwestern inspiration.
In many ways, Kinks delivers on the promise that Megacity hinted at, but still there is plenty room for growth from this collaboration. If the pair continues to refine its output on future releases, it appears likely that the best is still to come.