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Audio Asia: atmospheric analogue explorations on James What's 'Curfew'

A welcome return to studio action from the London-based producer on his new three-track EP


  • Patrizio Cavaliere | Powered by Pioneer DJ
  • 12 November 2020
Audio Asia: atmospheric analogue explorations on James What's 'Curfew'

Title: Curfew
Artist: James What
Label: Modelmaker
Release Date: Out now

James What has been deeply rooted in the world of subterranean music for the best part of two decades. A key player in the noughties minimal explosion, his solo work and co-productions regularly graced the rosters of the era's benchmark labels, including Crosstown Rebels, Poker Flat and Murmur. His Berkson & What collaboration with keyboard virtuoso Dan Berkson generated a spectacular amount of heat and won over countless admirers, thanks in part to the pair's energetic and analogue-fuelled live shows. By our reckoning, this is the first release from James since 2015, so we were especially excited when the promo landed at Mixmag Asia HQ. The EP marks the seventh release on Modelmaker, the London-based label he runs alongside Berkson.

Composed and recorded in the midst of the first round of pandemic-enforced lockdown measures, James put together a make-shift studio comprised of classic analogue hardware – including Roland 808 and Juno 60 clones – and set to work crafting a collection of three cuts which are equally suited to home listening as to club play. Title track 'Curfew' embodies an eerie sense of paranoia, thanks to its retro-leaning pads and heavy electro drum track. The music unfolds over seven mysterious minutes, synth stabs enliven the cut as the heavy bass rolls and atmospheric textures build and dissipate to dramatic effect.

The electro flavours and vintage sound palette continue into 'Identity'. Lively toms, dubbed-out vocal and a charging rhythm power the groove over the hypnotic bass hook, as syncopated synth stabs rise-up to increase the energy. Finally, on 'Disconnect', James switches up the rhythm to supply us with a distinctively stripped-back house cut. The heavily swung groove bumps over bass in the lowest of octaves, abstract layers soar across the topography, and the infectious drums guarantee booty-shaking dance-floor appeal.

This is a welcome return to action from James What, and another slice of quality from the Modelmaker camp. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long before episode eight hits the shelves...

James What 'Curfew' is out now, you can listen and buy it here

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