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White Noise: Fuewa - Birth Palace

Monday, 8 July 2013

Fuewa - Birth Palace

Label: Sonic Router

When one looks back over the last twenty years of dance music, a pattern of cycles begins to emerge. Genres go in and out of fashion with a near-clockwork regularity, while new styles are typically the results of mutation rather than entirely new thinking. And while this series of cycles is a convincing structure through which to understand the rapid shifts of dance trends, one could also look at this history as a series of contrasts, of artistic backlashes that rail against established norms. Just so, the current popularity of the sanitised ‘deep house’ of Julio Bashmore and Disclosure has antagonised and spurrend on the current ‘outsider house’ trend, championed by artists in the UK and New York on the likes of the Trilogy Tapes and Opal Tapes imprints.

While Chris Sallows’ debut as Fuewa (though some will already know him as Microburst) does not entirely fit into this process of artistic recoil, his collection of plangent, murky compositions on Birth Palace are as timely as they are beautifully produced. It is useful to view his music within this context, for with all the bassy sheen and quantised beat patterns dominating the Beatport Top 20, a little haze and deconstruction is more than welcome, especially when it’s pulled off with such elegance and attention to detail.

One need look no further than stunning opener Blhok to see the appeal. A sunken kick and fuzzy atmospherics give way to an aqueous synth wash and a beautifully simple melody shimmering like a gemstone at the bottom of a river. Sallows’ tools are nothing new – we’ve all heard vinyl hiss and sidechained compression before – but there is a grace to each of his detailed compositions which demands careful listening, and those who make the effort will be rewarded with a deeply involving, transportative sonic experience.

From here on out, Sallows goes deeper. Outa Banks leads with a fine-tuned beat pattern comprised of drowned kicks and foundsound percussive accents, sounding like Downliners Sekt with a greater emphasis on momentum, while his eschewing of conventional structure is perfectly exhibited in the moody outro where a single industrial drone slowly loops itself into silence. There’s a sense of poetry to each of these compositions, which differentiate themselves clearly over repeated listens, from the slow, stirring melody of Undress_Invert, with its surprising rhythmic shift, to the downtrodden, murky ambience of closer Black Illusion Fall Out, where a single string note stretches out towards eternity in a bed of fuzzy sound collage.

Birth Palace works remarkably well as a whole, and the compelling nature of Sallows' patient touch is only revealed when the listener truly immerses himself. Yet this does not prevent certain tracks from shining especially brightly. The collection reaches its nadir with the pitch-black La Void, where creaking vocals and a loping kick give way to phenomenal shuddering bass hits. Yet Fuewa never restricts himself to a single colour palette; even amongst the ominous gloom, there is a trace of fragility to the subdued melody.

Penultimate track Time Paint is perhaps one of Fuewa’s most accomplished pieces. What begins as a crackling storm of static wind evolves magically over the 7-minute runtime, as a drowned industrial stomp anchors the synths that ripple delicately across the track’s surface. It is this sense of journey, of the unexpected, which makes Birth Palace such a delight. Sallows is clearly a master of sound design, tweaking each note and detail to form a series of moving, impressionistic vignettes. It may not sound that radical on first listen, but given time to open up Birth Palace is a powerful thing indeed; subtly evocative in its darkness, and nakedly beautiful in its execution.


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