On one hand, the Korak EP is a completely sensible release, the latest salvo from global-bass hub Dutty Artz, here electing to shine a light on some tunes from fellow New Yorkers Contakt and Mayster, two of the folks behind the monthly TURRBOTAX® party in Brooklyn, which just so happens to be celebrating its two-year anniversary tonight. Then again, it's a bit of a head scratcher, as Dutty Artz releases—most of which focus on beats and rhythms either emanating from or strongly influenced by Latin America and Africa—are rarely this straightforward in terms of their dancefloor prowess. While the imprint's white-label release from Dubbel Dutch earlier this year resides in similar sonic territory, the Korak EP does stick out like the proverbial sore thumb in the Dutty Artz discography.
That said, the four-song EP is an undeniably strong release. On his past solo efforts, Contakt—who, in the interest of full disclosure, does work at XLR8R—has skillfully interweaved Detroit-style synths with more upfront, UK-influenced rhythms, with an end result that is often smooth, precise, and melodically driven. Perhaps it's the influence of Mayster, but Korak is decidedly tougher, with harder, more organic, and, yes, slightly tribal drum sounds. (No, the Tarzan-referencing song titles "Korak" and "Opar" are not completely random.) The first minutes of "Korak" offer a hard-hitting whirlwind of clanging drum sounds, gradually folding in thudding bass notes and miniscule synth stabs before the song's principal, high-pitched melody is unveiled. The track is almost a throwback to the drum-heavy sounds of first-wave UK funky, yet skillfully avoids sounding dated. "Opar" relies on a similar sound palette, although the tune has a more defined groove and instead hints at '90s house while riding its melody and chunky bassline.
Rounding out the EP are two remixes, the first from the UK's Doc Daneeka, who gives "Opar" a steppier feel with his rolling drum sounds. The man's drum programming is always compellingly on point, and he doesn't fall short here. Dutty Artz label head Matt Shadetek tackles "Korak," with his remix—which you can download here—flipping the song into a tribal guarachero style. The loping beats actually fit the song rather well, especially with his addition of some playfully bubbling synth notes. Not surprisingly, it's the most "Dutty Artz" selection on the EP; perhaps this release does makes sense after all.