Pittsburgh Track Authority's output is conservative on the surface, but over the past couple of years, the trio has developed a (pun sadly intended) track record of offering much more than the traditional house template. The outfit's latest 12", for the fledgling Work Them Records, features some of its hardest-hitting material to date, a kind of peak-time coda to the smoothed-out vibes on last year's Giza EP. The group—consisting of Tom Cox, Preslav Lefterov, and Adam Ratana—has a background in drum & bass, and its sound brings that genre's technical precision to bear on the rich, warm sound palette of jazz and classic house. In the past, the producers have worked with live instrumentation provided by the likes of vibes player Craig Peyton and percussionist Cottrell to spectacular effect; previous tracks like "Rotunda" and "Levitate" instantly established a warm familiarity, seemingly bypassing questions of genre. Strenf is no less organic and no easier to pin down, though it does find the Authority banging it out inside the box.
PTA discussed its fondness for effects in the interview accompanying its Little White Earbuds podcast, and Strenf's a-side displays a somewhat more blatant use of effects boxes than we've heard in the past. "Strenf" edges toward techno territory, splitting its focus between a sproingy 130-bpm beat and a waffling, delay-soaked percussion hit. It still jacks, but its unrelenting forward momentum is fairly blistering by PTA standards. "The Standard" flexes hard too, offering a pressurized and chopped-up take on the group's jazzy affability that vents its organ stabs like an overheated boiler spewing steam. "Missile 1" cools things down a bit, sifting down to a cool 120 bpm, but its 16th-note hi-hats and throaty blobs of acid strike a somewhat paranoid note. By the time "It's Time" rounds out the EP, it's clear what PTA has been working up to; over a skipping, UK garage-indebted beat, several flavors of dubwise analog bass writhe into irresistible shapes. Glassy, flashing dub chords à la Rhythm & Sound rub up against flatulent Moog interjections for an uncharacteristically twitchy but memorably strong conclusion.