The Sonic Aesthetic Tales from the Nocturn

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During its first few years, International Feel was subject to heavy speculation regarding its operating base in Uruguay and its shadowy owner, who was then only known as Mark B. Both raised fair questions. How could an unknown, far from dance music's hubs, develop working relationships with the likes of DJ Harvey and Matt Edwards? It seemed like a typical, fake-backstory ruse. Refreshingly, however, it was mostly true. Mark Barrott isn't a complete unknown—he used to produce drum & bass as Future Loop Foundation—but he was based in Uruguay (he's since relocated to Ibiza), and he has tended to take a backseat to the work of his artists. While some of the label's more obscure projects may have featured his handiwork, Tales from the Nocturn, Barrott's debut EP as The Sonic Aesthetic, is the first to officially bear his name.

"Mendicant Adventures" opens the proceedings on a downtempo note. It may include some stock house motifs—square bass, morphing arpeggios, and the eventual entry of gleaming pads—but they're applied with smudgy, easygoing strokes, and as a result, never become too grid-like. "Dark of the Moon" moves with a more confident strut, with clusters of wavy synths swirling around its rhythm. There is something lunar in the resonance of those tones, which again elevate the track above others of its tempo and mood. "Paradol Chamber" is even spacier, beginning with a beautifully solemn, beatless introduction and evolving into a soaring, stargazing-on-the-beach mini-epic (it's under five minutes), complete with subtle guitar strums. The EP slots comfortably into the oeuvres of both the label and the wider landscape of Balearic revivalism, but its worn aesthetic stands out. Barrott's tracks resemble a more widescreen take on Swedish producer Sand Circles' drowsy frameworks, and are composed with a similarly intoxicating flexibility. There's abundant proof here that Barrott can hang with the luminaries he signs, and he actually bests some of their efforts in the process.