Sunday, May 10, 2009

Moth/Wolf Cub 12" - Burial + Four Tet

Moth/Wolf Cub

Four Tet & Burial
Text Records.

SCQ Rating: 86%

Like many electronica fans, I digested the curious news two weeks ago of a super-limited twelve-inch release that sported rare collaborations between Four Tet and Burial. No details, no confirmation from either camp responsible, and above all else, copies of this release had sold out before most major online-publications caught word of its existence! So I ravenously searched for proof of life, finding the same scraps as everyone else, before accidentally discovering it (and by “it”, yes, I mean the actual vinyl) several days ago. Forgive any bragging that ensues…

There’s a mystic rustling at the commencement of ‘Moth’; a masala of test-tones and dull taps that provide one’s first audio accompaniment to the many questions of this mystery release. The most common and probably necessary query to coattail this release boils down to who is responsible for what, given there are no liner notes amid the black-clad cover-art. Did each artist produce a side to this twelve-inch or were both tracks written and recorded together? Both bloggers and professional critics have embraced this lack of information with a zest best remembered from the days of print magazines and anticipated release dates, but it’s a question easily answered if, of course, you actually own the record. Each side of this limited vinyl is inscribed with the song and artist responsible, and on both sides, it reads: “Burial + Four Tet”. Case closed. If that doesn’t satiate your doubt, however, you can always just listen and discover the obvious collison of these two artists yourself.

Anyway, enough mystic rustling: we’ve traded enough mysteries when, really, the music proves to be the real story. As soon as ‘Moth’ flickers into its divine techno-trance of deep bass stabs and dancefloor stutter, you’ll think you’ve found the best club track of the year. Then it’ll wiggle out of its strict bassline and bounce from a softer lens, maintaining its momentum but increasingly dewier, out of focus, and upon Burial’s inclusion of perfectly-pitched vocal samples, you might just realize it’s the best electronic track of 2009. Moving from direct, spontaneous and white-knuckled to a nearly muted, nostalgic reflection of its first half, ‘Moth’ is artful in a way few dance tracks of recent years have been capable of. It’s a result could only arrive from not one, but two of our finest electronic producers, as both sets of fingerprints are all over these tracks. Imagine the frenetic melodies of Four Tet’s Ringer EP that endlessly cycled its own footsteps, yet instead of being stabilized by that EP’s dependence on 4/4 techno beats, now imagine Hebden’s loops hitched to Burial’s ever-accomplished percussive clatter - those wood-block thuds and concrete-wet smacks – which, combined, gives spirited new direction for both artists in the heart-pounding ‘Wolf Cub’. If ‘Moth’ is poised to steal the best dancefloors in Britain this summer, than ‘Wolf Cub’ might soundtrack the footrace that ensues out the back of the club and into the jungle night. Although Four Tet’s cut-up codas lay the track’s foundation, this is inevitably Burial’s high-point; each subtle tap or pounding grime-step beat deviating between sympathetic rain-on-window or irresistible, elastic, hammerhead euphoria. As these two compositions shift between speeds and emotions, Moth/Wolf Cub warrants the tease/argument of being both Four Tet and Burial’s finest work to date.

Artistic collaborations between solo artists are commonly akin to B-movies, not because the musicians involved are subpar but because with collaboration comes varied ideas, with varied ideas comes ego or disagreement, and with ego or disagreement comes polarity or - the evil enemy of art itself - consensus. It’s an extremely unpolished thesis but the proof is everywhere; it’s the reason Lindstrom albums are infinitely more anticipated than Lindstrom & Prins Thomas albums and, dare I say, Four Tet albums take precedence over Fridge albums. It’s also why remix albums are virtual footnotes to an artist’s body of work. How Burial and Four Tet sidestepped the usual homogenization inherent to collaboration is unbeknownst to me, but it’s a strategy as coveted and important as the resulting document itself. Now I’m no fool; the hype surrounding this release can only bolster the blogosphere’s blind delight. Yet if either of these tracks showed trace of a recycled or substandard idea, this underhanded press-approach would come off as little more than a hollow gimmick. Truth is, the whole package is so damned fresh, you’ll forget the piece of vinyl was hyped in the first place. Sure, these two producers may’ve first crossed paths on The Eraser RMXS but after Moth/Wolf Cub, their future collaborations (rumoured to be in the process) look to be deservedly higher in profile.

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