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REVIEW | ASDASFR BAWD – UNDERPASS (EP)

Last time I wrote about Asdasfr Bawd, for his ‘Nobody/Love’ debut, much of it (if you want to call 82 words ‘much’) was spent talking about something I described as “sweet omnichord fiddling” and how the second song on the release sounded a lot like a something off Caribou’s ‘Swim’.

Asdasfr Bawd’s (real name Alex Clayton) next slice is something infinitely more polished and focussed; a six song offering which sees Clayton not only expand the cavernous depth of his musical space, but set it all around an undeniable heartbeat of UK house, with liberal splashes of dubstep, and footwork for good measure.

“Sayer” is where this depth is plumbed the most. An opening of chattering drum samples and clicks is interrupted by a gruelling jungle thump and clattering high-hats. Music flirting with space and reverbed samples is not something you’d expect you take you by surprise, and certainly not build any tension, but thats the secret third ingredient here, nowhere more obvious than on title track “Underpass”.

Clayton certainly isn’t looking to come through with the same sort of chilled out semi deep house vibes that has seeped into much of his work so far; “Underpass” is a statement and a fucking half of tension and release that possibly isn’t topped for the rest of the EP. Building his intro on echoing flutes, Clayton throws in a simple drum click, a bass drum, and progressively more and more tidbits that by the time he wallops you with a “Limit To Your Love”-esque wobbling bass drop it’s somewhat expected, but the gloomy synth chords add a level of personality to this descent that I didn’t even know was possible.

If Clayton had gone for another double release like ‘Nobody/Love’ this time around, ‘Underpass/Alsp’ ought to have been the logical progression. The latter here is carrying on the upped BPM from “Underpass” and taking it just that one step further; drawing on Chicago footwork, and adding a spitting, chattering vocal sample. “Sly Defender” wears its early James Blake influence on it’s sleeve, drawing from the clicking drum samples Blake implemented on his ‘CMYK’ EP from 2010, with a low static synth buzzing away in the background.

“Packed Heat” closes us out, all grandeur and droning low synthesisers, sounding like the more introspective moments off Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour’ from earlier this year; but it also has this wondrous sense of anticipation, like Clayton is just as excited about the future as I am having heard this EP. Expect great things here friends, Clayton is showing how to borrow proudly while maintaining a voice thats all his own.

By Nicholas Kennedy / @nickkennedy

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