Earlier this year, Mark Barrott stepped from behind the managerial desk of his International Feel label to release an EP as The Sonic Aesthetic. Tales from the Nocturn was a fine semi-debut (Barrott had a career in drum & bass as Future Loop Foundation prior to moving to Uruguay and starting a label), exhibiting a dusted disco-house sound that slotted nicely next to International Feel’s marquee acts. Now, Barrott is already back with its follow up, New Districts, which is set to be the first release for his new sub-label, also called The Sonic Aesthetic. Certain aspects of the record's predecessor remain, but the mood is much less smudgy and romantic.
All three tracks on the EP are marked by acidic leads, sounds which often end up dominating the mix they're deployed into. "Duke’s Cut" has a pulsing strut, and is marked by hand drums and lazy chords which mesh with the TB-303 centerpiece. The jacking "Earthworms" is a bit more playful, featuring a deep, resonant melody interwoven with an insect-like, high-octave line and some string stabs. But neither really ascend beyond simple "acid track" territory; they’re well composed, but lack any further panache.
Although it is shorter and not aimed at the dancefloor, the title track is the most successful here, as Barrott blends the patient acid with glassy chimes and low pads. The result is more in line with Tales from the Nocturn’s cosmic, beachcombing vibe, and indeed with the International Feel ethos as a whole. Overall, New Districts is not as distinctive as The Sonic Aesthetic's debut, but it does make one wonder what other stylistic shifts Barrott might have in store for his new imprint.