Perhaps better known for the sparse and inhuman minimal techno of his Maetrik project, Eric Estornel has nonetheless done a lot towards re-inventing himself under the name of Maceo Plex. Standing in contrast to earlier forays, his new moniker explores the moody and tightly wound world of vocal tech-house. Sweating Tears, his latest EP, continues in a vein similar to his last four releases, but offers mixed results.
Maceo Plex's record kicks off with the anthemic "Can't Leave You," an uncharacteristically uplifting track that combines a freestyle bassline with gated '80s drum sounds and an insistent guitar riff that brings to mind the likes of Chic. Over that infectious instrumental production, Estornel layers vocals that are a dead-ringer for mid-'80s Italo, complete with all the cheesy swagger that entails. It's essentially a piece of dancefloor candy, a tune you may enjoy getting down to, but one with a distinct lack of substance. Still, it will undoubtedly get a lot of play in club settings, even if it doesn't have the same depth that defined Maceo Plex's previous singles for Crosstown Rebels, "Vibe Your Love" and "Your Style."
"Stop Your Hate," the second cut on the EP, fares a bit worse. Built on a moody, handclap-led disco rhythm, the track moves into deeper territory with techy synth sweeps and diving synth-bass. Yet while it contains a more compelling instrumental arrangement, the song is marred by a ridiculous spoken-word diatribe against the artist's critics. It's a shame, too, because the song would have been a lot better without him repeatedly chanting, "Don't hate," and, "Learn from this."
The EP's highlight comes in the form of Berlin-based duo Tale of Us' remix of "Can't Leave You." Taking the original's giddy nouveau disco and plunging it into a dense moodiness, the pair's remix provides all the hallmarks of a deep cut. Gone is the disco-like exuberance, and in its stead we're given undulating digital bass, massive amounts of reverb, and ominous atmospheric drones on "Can't Leave You (Tale of Us Remix)." Small motifs from the original are slowly teased in and out of the mix with an almost dub-like zeal, and help make a track that will undoubtedly play a role in the crates of early-morning DJs for at least the next year or so.