With the Balearic isle of Ibiza resting just offshore and the standard-setting electronic-music festival Sónar now in its 18th year, Spain can officially be counted alongside London, Berlin, and New York as a DJ capital. It's surprising then that there aren't more Spanish artists receiving international accolades, particularly when so many big-name DJs call Spain, well, Ibiza at least, home every summer. Catalonian producer Uner may be the man to break the slump.
With releases spread across Cadenza, Cécille, Diynamic, and now Visionquest, Uner's willingness to inject Latin percussion and jazzy chords into the predominantly mechanical tech-house world has made him a refreshing voice. His Universe EP may be the best example of this so far. Representing the warmth of the sun ("Sol") and the cool glow of the moon ("Luna")—a third track, "Cuac," serves as a less thematic digital exclusive—this latest effort is a more nuanced, underground affair for Uner. It's also what makes the effort such a good fit for Visionquest, a label that's established a solid reputation for presenting a bold vision of house and techno that defies the expectations of populist dancefloors.
A-side "Sol" unfolds in a similar fashion to recent work from Uner peer and Cadenza top dog Luciano. Congas and the twinkling of a piano provide the track's initial organic chemistry before its techno pulse kicks in; some atmospheric chatter and vocal chants add a sense of late-night hypnotism that surely appealed to Ryan Crosson and the Visionquest boys. A mid-song bass drop marks the entry of layer upon layer of live synth work, and the point when Uner's ode to our closest star really begins to shine. It's a slow-burning number that wears its inspiration well.
"Luna" succeeds in much the same way, playing up Uner's artistic eccentricities with off-kilter percussion riffs and squawks, squeaks, and creaks that recall jungle noises at midnight. Imperceptibly at first, a steady crescendo of modulating organ tones grows stronger over two-thirds of the track, eventually peaking into full-moon worship. Dark but still uplifting, and meditative without being monotonous, "Luna" is the EP's highest high.
Bringing things back to a place fans of his earlier work will appreciate, "Cuac" represents for the Spanish artist's straightforward techno chops. Going with a similar melodic lead, it almost comes off as a more accessible, dancefloor-primed version of "Luna," albeit one without as many peaks and valleys.
Across all three songs, there's a musicality that goes well beyond a man sitting in front of a computer or twiddling knobs. Uner has a grasp of live instrumentation and knack for marathon house workouts that never tire. It's perfect fodder for the all-nighters on the island in his country's backyard, and if he keeps up with output of this caliber, he just might find himself receiving the kind of Ibiza star treatment that's usually reserved for the non-Spaniards who play there on a regular basis.