Protected: Crosson & Mereville ‘DRM’

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October 19, 2012

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Album: DRM
Format: Artist Album
Cat No: VQCD001
Label: Visionquest
Released: 19th November 2012
Distribution: K7


Tracklisting

1. Nymphean
2. Pending featuring Arthur Simonini & Kate Simko
3. Again & Again featuring Greg Paulus
4. No Hassle
5. DRM
6. At The Seams featuring Banana Lazuli & Arthur Simonini
7. Orca
8. Escale
9. The Day You Left
Following last year’s critically acclaimed EP release ‘DRM’, Visionquest’s own Ryan Crosson teams up with Cadenza’s Cesar Merveille for a full-length album that carries the ever-protean label into as yet uncharted waters. Tightly constructed so as to form a unity that is nothing less than cinematic, Crosson and Merveille offer up nine pieces of music that are less ‘tracks’ than sonic essays.

Documents of alienation and its overcoming, songs such as these will appeal to fans of Broadcast, Air, Kevin Shields, or Juana Molina as much as they will to any forward-thinking DJ trying to curate an appropriately reflective afterhours. Despite huge variations in tempo and instrumentation, each is an attempt to comprehend or think through a mood without, for all that, sacrificing the concerns of the body or the dance floor. A heady challenge for any artist no doubt, but the results speak for themselves, threading the divide between cutting-edge dance music and lushly experimental electronica, invoking along the way the history of musical minimalism from its inception with the avant-garde composers of the 60s to the downtown New York of the 80s.

These two young men are no strangers to the limelight. Ryan Crosson has appeared on the cover of both of the top two UK music magazines in the past year, Mixmag and DJ, as part of Visionquest. It’s no secret that the four-man DJ and production outfit (together with Seth Troxler, Shaun Reeves and Lee Curtiss) hailing from Detroit and same-titled label imprint are the biggest act of the present. Cesare Merveille shot to notoriety alongside Luciano’s Cadenza crew in a similar fashion and made his mark during their collected explosion over the last couple of years. Together they unite to create this special body of work, using their unassuming surnames to form a new alias together, mixed with love by seminal producer Luke Solomon.

Obsessive masters of their craft, in ‘DRM’ the artistic intellect is everywhere on display, ruthlessly ensuring that form follows content. From the album’s opening track ‘Nymphean’, with its soft-touch, bubbling percussion and playful, watery palette of sounds, to ‘Pending’, which builds layers of emotion and suspense by juxtaposing an airy, sparse piano line worthy of Keith Jarrett with a breathless, almost dizzyingly involuted percussive-structure, it is clear that titles matter, alerting the listener to the process of self-examination that is quickly called forth by each work.

Similarly, one cannot help but wonder if it is the beautiful ghost of Arthur Russell being ever so-subtly invoked in ‘Arthur’. Here, ascending and contrapuntal piano phrases speak back to the fraught and fragile world of ‘Pending’, forming the perfect envelope for the haunting vocals of Montreal’s Banana Lazuli, soon to make her own appearance on the hotly anticipated sub-label, Visionquest Music. The abstract, jazz-like aesthetic is captured within a classical piano stance, courtesy of Kate Simko and graced by the remarkable musicianship of Arthur Simonini (whose deft instrumentation skills are also evident in the exquisite ‘At The Seams’).

Yet for all that the album sometimes eschews the kick drum in order to cultivate moments of serene beauty, neither Crosson nor Merveille have forgotten the imperative to bring their level of artistic and emotional urgency to the genres in which they have made their name. ‘DRM’ and ‘Orca’ make a return appearance from the earlier single. Both the Villalobos-esque bass climbs of the former and the almost Balearic exuberance of the later gain newfound relevance by being placed in dialogue with the album’s more melancholic moments.

But the real stunner is undoubtedly ‘Again’, which is sure to light up (or perhaps burn down) the major outdoor festivals and terraces this summer. This is a slice of abstract funk that evokes nothing less than the snare-heavy shuffle of bands like Liquid Liquid and E.S.G. Not since Crosson’s earlier ‘Confiteria del Molino’ (Wagon Repair 2008) have trumpets been put to such an utterly demonic use, conjuring up just the kind of psychedelic sweat lodge from which Visionquest takes it name. With ‘Again’ Crosson and Merveille show how dance music might borrow elements of pop, even post-punk, without sacrificing its own autonomy in the process.

Ultimately, what Crosson and Mereville have made is nothing less than dance music for intellectuals, a unity of thought and feeling, poetry for bodies in motion.