TB Arthur 3

Despite all the mystery surrounding this Chicago producer and his supposedly vintage creations, it's hard to argue with the quality of the music.
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TB Arthur is, allegedly, a producer from Chicago who made a series of test pressings in the '90s that, until last year, had been taking up shelf space in a warehouse. Three four-track 12"s bearing the artist's scribbled name, a phone number, and not much else have surfaced in recent months, which is about as much as anyone can say for sure about a producer whose backstory is so short on detail. Putting that aside for now, these records are remarkable for a few reasons. Each EP contains a quartet of raw, fibrous house tools made with a contemporary polish that belies their supposed origin, and 3 follows in that mold. Most of these records could be described as acid house of some sort, but the music's thick 303 squelches are a bit more fastidious and well-mannered than the average Trax throwback.

"A1" seems at first to be typical of TB Arthur's surly, heads-down vibe, but its spiking whistle and snaking waves of acid afford it a lightness that complements its block percussion and wah-wah riff. It sounds scrupulously machine-like: amid the skiffing hi-hats and warbling acid lines, factory noises and pneumatic whooshes slide this way and that. There's a little bit more dust on "A2," which emits a similar palette of industrial noises, but, like "A1," it manages to strike a satisfying balance between brow-creasing steeliness and fleet-footed reverie. Among its most intriguing elements are its detuned skin percussion, which lapses in and out of time like a fitfully manned spinning top, and a cavernous knock that echoes through the iron chains and concrete walls that seem to reinforce the track.

The b-side of 3 mirrors TB Arthur's meticulous touch. "B1" submerges factory-forged pings, clicks, and thuds in gloopy 303s—the track's acid lines take command of proceedings quite a bit more than they do on most other TB Arthur excursions. On "B2," this same instrument oscillates in sharp bursts amid ricocheting tambourines and snare fills, which, though it's the EP's most excitable record, falls a bit short of the standards set by the preceding three. TB Arthur's music makes its surest strides at a languid pace—"B2" certainly moves up the gears, but it doesn't set the heart racing.

An EP as well crafted and assured as this leaves a few questions that are, for the moment, unlikely to get straight answers. How many cloth ears did this record come across before it found itself in the ass end of a warehouse? Why did it take two decades to get this stuff out? And there's another question, of course—why the coyness? Still, since we can't know the motivations behind the manner of this release, it's maybe best to give its creator the benefit of the doubt. To borrow a well-worn phrase, TB Arthur lets the music do the talking, but it'll be interesting to see how he or she adds to the conversation from here.