By all accounts, 2011 was a good year for multi-aliased producer Eric Estornel. Working under his Maceo Plex moniker, he pumped out five singles and an LP, and, in the process, established his status as a serious producer of slick vocal tech-house. However, his wholesale adoption of the Maceo Plex identity came at the expense of a slowed-down release schedule for Maetrik, his older and more "proper" tech-house guise. In 2012, Estornel has attempted to make up for that slack by dropping The Entity EP in January, and now, Unleash the Beast, the first Maetrik release to find its way to his Ellum Audio imprint.
Much like The Entity before it, Unleash the Beast feels like a project of consolidation. Whereas in years past the Maetrik and Maceo Plex monikers could be almost lazily divided into either more techno or house-leaning projects, the new EP combines aspects of the two to arrive at a tastefully done hybrid of both that leans toward the latter.
For instance, "The Poem," the EP's big-room a-side, is a tightly controlled roller coaster that plays with the energy expectations of a large dancefloor. A sticky, bongo-accompanied four-to-the-floor pulls down nervous sampled pads seasoned with waves of unintelligible chanting. An infectious bassline—a Maceo Plex calling card—ties the mix together in time to make space for a resampling of "Dis Poem,"Mutaburuka's fierce invocation first canonized by Bobby Konders' house classic "The Poem." What starts as tracky tech-house becomes a creative homage in the best sense—it's referential without being derivative.
The convergence between the two identities continues with the pop tech-house of "Walk Alone (Maceo Plex Revenge)." Estornel himself takes center stage, playing with the titular statement through characteristically club-ready and cool, Maceo Plex-like vocal riffs. In truth, it might as well be a Maceo Plex tune, the only thing hinting towards Maetrik being the song's punctuating blasts of synthesized fog horn.
Of all the tracks on the EP, "To The Top" is the most Maetrik-like. Sounding like a direct sequel to The Entity b-side "Asteroid Funk," that song's deep-voiced character is reprised, this time accompanied by a coil of angular hits wrapped around the EP's toughest sound palette. However, it's still less dissonant and more accessible than its predecessor. Gone is the abrasive metal-on-metal techno undercurrent, replaced instead by a more dubby atmosphere with house drums fused to deadstock '80s-electro cowbell.
Unleash The Beast might then mark a new direction for Estornel. Like some advanced stage of multiple-personality disorder, it seems as though his alter-egos have begun collaborating with one another. So far, that's meant a move towards Maceo Plex-like club tunes, resulting here in three tracks that could each become as anthems in their own right.