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White Noise: Sepalcure – Sepalcure

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sepalcure – Sepalcure

Pencil Pimp

See Me Feel Me


Sepalcure’s two members, Travis Stewart and Praveen Sharma, have had a very successful year. Under his Machinedrum moniker, Stewart released one of the summer’s best LPs in the form of the footwork-referencing Room(s), whilst Sharma’s second release of the year as Braille, A Meaning EP was one of the most solid and satisfying dance EPs I’ve heard of late. Added to this, as Sepalcure the pair released the Fleur EP early this year, fusing their respective Bass and House styles to craft a lush sound that really stood out from the crowd.

The prolific pair are on such a roll this year that it was with heavy anticipation that I listened to their debut LP for the first time, expecting great things from two who have already offered so much. After spending some time with the album, I wouldn’t say I was massively disappointed, but my (admittedly stratospherically high) expectations weren’t met either. The Sepalcure LP showcases some of the duo’s best work to date, but it also contains a surprising amount of tracks which don’t quite seem up to scratch, either weighed down by too many heavy textures or curiously directionless and indistinct.
I don’t mean to say this is a bad album, because the LP has an awful lot going for it. The songs are generally tight and well-produced, continuing the distinctive Sepalcure approach of adding a textural lushness and warmth to the all-too-often cold world of contemporary Bass and House albums. Added to this, some of these tracks are absolutely brilliant. Lead single Pencil Pimp is a stunning bass construction, running an intoxicating earworm of a vocal sample over propulsive percussion and a gorgeous mesh of synths that swoop around the soundfield. It also contains the little elements that made Sepalcure’s early work so special; low-key vocal samples, clicks and organic noises that bring the central sounds to life, making the song feel vibrant and warm rather than a collection of generic layers.

Sepalcure offer some other gems spread out through the LP. The Who sampling See Me Feel Me is a dusty, low-key affair, tapping into some sultry RnB vibes with a real attention to space in the track. It also serves as a reminder that Sepalcure can do great things with a few well-tuned textures, and might leave you questioning why so many tracks on the album are so crammed full of different sounds. Another tune here that demands attention is the beautiful and beatless closer Outside, which somewhat recalls the similarly ambient closing track of Room(s). It’s a desolate piece with great ambient sounds and lost voices, and is the clearest example of Sepalcure really stepping outside of their comfort zone here; a brave move that really pays off. Unfortunately, this is essentially the only point in the album the pair really try something new.

That’s not to say there are no new sounds here. There are quite a few tracks here incorporating less treated synths, bitcrushed effects and dubstep wobbles. However, it doesn’t really tend to pay off in these tracks. In The One, the synths sound clumsily implemented and a little on the nose, far from Sepalcure’s usual subtle and detailed style. The same could be said of later cut Hold On, in which a distressingly simple synth-line overlays fairly generic percussion and vocals. The only point they really nail this style is on Breezin, where a complimentary synthline and bass wobble underpin call-and-reply vocal samples to great effect, before the track breaks down magnificently into a more richly textured percussive field with another fantastic vocal line. It’s a formidable track, just as sleek and rewarding as their previous experimentation with these synths on Fleur’s No Think, and it’s a shame it’s the only point where they really get this sound right.

That covers most of what I have to say about this album, because unfortunately the rest of the tracks are rather unnecessary and indistinct. Whereas each gem on their EPs could be absorbed with ease, the long-play format means that the weaker songs get seriously lost here, and songs like Eternally Yrs and Yuh Nuh See are weighed down by heavy textures and a lack of variation, sounding like less exciting versions of other great tracks on the album. This is especially galling on a song like Carrot Man, where the potential is clear from the genuinely fantastic vocal and guitar samples laced through the track which just become loss in a directionless bed of messy-sounding synths and percussion.

There are clearly some fantastic tracks on this LP, but even those don’t add anything hugely to the existing (and brilliant) Sepalcure canon thus far. Few changes are made to their sound and the heaping on of heavier layers means these tracks are also far from a refinement of their style. While little here is inherently bad, with expectations running so high from their previous output this LP really does feel like a disappointment, and after spending a long time with the album it’s hard to know what it gives you that you couldn’t get in a more interesting and stylish fashion in their earlier EPs.


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