Recently I wrote about DFRNT‘s alias AGC Esquire, a slick eighties-inspired project that called to mind the greatest (and often the most sinister) soundtracks of films like Dune, which were produced at the time, or films like Drive, which came out much later but that encapsulate the decade of decadence and lavish spending.
Since that project, Alex Cowles has returned to his DFRNT alias to produce his trademark blend of dubstep, house, ambient and techno under the umbrella “bass music” category. And boy has he been busy! Not only are we treated to a new EP (‘El Spirito’), but also the LP that spawned it (‘Fading’).
As always, Cowles’ attention to detail is what shines through, minute elements and instruments are painstakingly produced, giving the listener a truly enriched listening experience. ‘Fading’ builds on the dubstep tinged ambiance of his first album (2009′s ‘Metafiction’), adding elements of techno, house and IDM into the mix.
A prime example of this would be the contrast between opening track ‘Silent Witness’ and its successor ‘El Spirito’. The former is an ambient wash of synths that gently glide and crash into one another, only to be followed by a subdued house number that is equal parts Jacques Greene, Add N To (X) and Massive Attack with just the faintest hint of a disco influence. It may not seem much but the juxtaposition for the listener comes off as quite remarkable. Add to that the echoing vocal sample (which sounds remarkably like Kate Bush) and we have ourselves one hell of a dancefloor classic.
The real strength in this record, though, is Cowles’ use of vocal samples. The production, while perfectly executed, is a backdrop. That’s not to diminish what he’s achieved in this record – tracks like ‘Deep Into It’ demonstrate his ability to explore complex layers of melodies without drowning out a simple and arresting vocal arrangement – but it is to say that his music is a means to frame and accentuate the blissful vocal washes that pervade this record.
In short, ‘Fading’, is a shining example of the uplifting edge the downtempo house scene has begun to display. For a while the genre remained somewhat melancholic, minimal, pretentious even. Just recently, however, certain artists have begun to look back to their acid house forefathers for a way to drag the scene out of the doldrums and inject it with some much-needed soul and passion. DFRNT is one of those artists.