Fledgling Brooklyn label Fifth Wall is starting to gain some much-deserved traction, and the second EP from co-founder Divvorce is an apt demonstration as to why. The label's releases so far—which include EPs from Physical Therapy, Clouds, Matrixxman, and label co-founder Hound Scales—have walked an intriguing line between bare-boned, stony-faced techno and gestures towards the more playful ends of the rave and bass spectrums. Consisting of two originals and two remixes from labelmates Physical Therapy and Unklone, the Vanessa (A Dreamer) EP purports to be influenced by "pretentious sources" such as Franz Kafka, Darren Aronofsky, and a solitary walk through Paris during Fashion Week, but it's surprisingly lacking in chilly austerity. Instead, as the record's humorous press release suggests, the EP exhibits a very self-conscious brand of seriousness that isn't afraid to have its tongue slightly in-cheek.
The EP's first original track, "Wander 7," opens with ominous, de-tuned synths and a vocoded voice before skittish hi-hats and a heady bassline are introduced to the mix, giving the song an almost British rave sensibility. It's dark techno with a playful edge, as the track borders on the theatrical, even though Divvorce always seems to be in total control. More oblique is the second original, "Roquentin's Release," which again deploys a monstrous bassline, this time in service of the track's tensely drawn-out atmospherics, and ultimately dissipates into an extended, found-sound-based outro. Physical Therapy's remix of the same track reworks the original's near-illegibility into melancholic, rainy-day techno and blurry soundscapes; the result is unlike anything Physical Therapy has tried his hand at before and is surely one of the better things that the New York producer has turned out thus far. Unklone's remix of non-EP track "Anny" takes things in a different direction from the rest of Vanessa (A Dreamer) with its elongated dub-techno, and as a result is perhaps the weak link on what is otherwise a playfully inventive release.