Ever since he relocated to Berlin a year or so ago, something has been changing in the music that Youandewan (a.k.a. Ewan Smith) both makes and plays. The early years of the Englishman's career saw him roaming around in the nether regions of cuddly, humid deep house, a place where rueful pads and insular rhythms always bubbled below the surface without ever boiling over. There was a shyness and loneliness to his output that made it perfect for warm up-sets or cozy back rooms, but at the same time, his music's low-key nature has led to Smith largely remaining underneath the radar, especially when compared to Aus and Hypercolour labelmates like Bicep or Huxley.
Yet on Spiral Arms, Youandewan's latest record for Aus Music, he seems to come out of his shell. In the same way that his recent DJ sets have suggested a newfound passion for darker, harder-hitting sounds, his productions here are also a touch more menacing and pronounced. Actually, the first track, "Stak Poly Looms," sounds like Smith shaking off the last vestiges of his mopey old self once and for all—it's a warm house track with pumping, punchy kick drums, airy cymbals, and smeared chords, the whole thing topped off by a delightfully light-footed and spiritually uplifting female coo. The mood shifts dramatically on "Isabel," however, as the track sounds less inspired by a sunny day in the park than a somber walk through Berlin's deserted streets late at night. Relying upon the same sort of shadowy dungeon darkness one might find in a Joey Anderson or Levon Vincent track, it's a slithering, horizontal bit of icy and zoned out-house where poignant chord progressions offset a much more gritty and dirty bassline riff. Analog, atmospheric, and grainy, it's Youandewan's most spare, but most accomplished, cut to date.
"Fool Be Cool" sits somewhere between the two, its golden chords intermingling with an ephemeral bit of soulful female ad libbing atop a squelchy and degraded acid line. It's the sort of beautifully haunting track that swirls about in the listener's brain for ages after hearing it, but it's also sure to take care of business on the dancefloor, thanks to the renewed bite of Smith's drums. Remixing the song is Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Clone, and Houndstooth affiliate Marquis Hawkes, whose no-nonsense rework offers crisp hits, barreling rubber kicks, and sweaty ghetto vibes. High impact and irresistibly rough and ready, it rounds out one of Aus Music's most excellent recent EPs.