In a curious sort of way, Yugen, the most significant release to date from Glasgow producer Lewis Roberts (a.k.a Koreless), feels cruder and more simplistic than anything we've heard from him before. Rather than fleshing out the sound he established on early tracks like "Up Down, Up Down" and "MTI," Roberts has opted to reduce his music down to its most essential elements. Drum beats, which already took a secondary role in his compositions, have been all but done away with here, leaving just a core assemblage of rough, rhythmic samples and thick, minor-key synth melodies. It's an effective formula though, and one that provides the EP with sounds that are emotive and anthemic in a raw, immediate way.
"Ivana" opens Yugen in appropriately minimal fashion, comprising little more than a few drone-like synths and the rhythmic shift of a jagged vocal sample. The grainy, nostalgic tones make Koreless' piece come across like a technicolor take on the degraded sample collages of Oneohtrix Point Never. Like that Brooklyn artist, Roberts does an impressive job creating moods with the textures of just a handful of fairly simplistic elements. The same trick is repeated with a varying selection of sounds across each of the record's five offerings. "Sun" is slightly more grand and dense than the track preceding it, but ultimately, it can still be broken down into the same combination of mournful melodies and crudely rhythmic leads. Instead of presenting the same kind of unintelligible syllables that are littered throughout the EP's opener, however, "Sun" is rife with euphoric chord stabs and percussive synthesizers that bob up and down amongst the wash of pads.
On "Last Remnants," Roberts revives the feel of previous single "Lost In Tokyo," but in an especially delicate, almost childlike form. Surprisingly, the track is made of little more than what sounds like a music box and some faint, fuzzy synths in the background. "NoSun," meanwhile, appropriately sounds like an ever-so-slightly darker version of "Sun"; the two productions are made of a similar combination of core elements, but Roberts brings the filters down on this counterpart—effectively shifting the emphasis to the slightly mournful chord progression hiding in the low frequencies. "Never" closes Koreless' first EP at a somewhat sedated pace, its patchwork of interlocked arpeggios and understated chord progressions slowly unfolding into nothingness.
For better or worse, Yugen is very much an EP based around a single core idea. Roberts has distilled his style into two basic elements—quasi-retro, emotive synths in the background with minimal, rhythmic leads taking over the topline—and plays with various combinations of those sounds across the five tracks here. Yet even if the record lacks a bit of variety, Koreless has successfully created a release that often manages to be understatedly beautiful, despite its self-prescribed restraints.