Following the accolades that accompanied the release of his "Slope" b/w "Maximum Busy Muscle" 12" in October, UK tunesmith Joe has returned at an atypically brisk pace, this time with a single for Untold's Hemlock label.
"Punters Step Out" is a tightly wound, minimal bass cut with a circus-like synth refrain that leads its percussion into a choppier, dancehall-leaning build-up. Joe's expertly honed mix allows for plenty of space and sonic contrast, and even though the composition solely relies upon a keyboard, bass, and a skittish drum progression, it still sounds full. The cut's wonky rhythm isn't heavily detailed, but it is rich in both personality and DJ functionality, evidence that Joe designs tracks with more than just the club in mind. Mildly experimental with an accessible core, "Punters Step Out" offers a genuinely enjoyable five minutes, much like the ambling carnival rides it seems to evoke.
On the flip, Joe imbues "Club Scared" with a similarly hyperactive, joyous bounce and another finely crafted mixdown, but the cut relies on a gimmick—basically, an Englishwoman announces the song's "hook" as it happens and continues to chime in throughout the track. The set-up doesn't come across as particularly humorous or clever, but the joke carries on nonetheless, with Joe raising his interweaving synth stabs until they eventually overtake the woman's cheeky deprecation that "you have heard this before." It seems that Joe has used his b-side to poke fun at himself and dance music in general, but when the female narrator orders the listener to "stop listening," it's hard not to do what she says, and maybe that is Joe's point. Breaking the fourth wall in any artform is always a gamble, but the song's jokey demeanor undermines what is actually some impressively driving, carefully sculpted, and rather inventive drumwork.