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White Noise: 123Mrk – Refined Madness EP

Monday, 30 January 2012

123Mrk – Refined Madness EP

Label: Squelch and Clap


Don’t be fooled by the juvenile cover or title to this release, French up-and-comer 123Mrk has got some very grown-up production chops, although admittedly he lets more than a little of his playful side show on his new EP for Sheffield-based label Squelch and Clap. These three tracks are awash with choppy vocals, sparkling glitchy synthwork and meaty basslines, and offer a hard shot of fun to a Dance scene that seems largely populated mostly by dark, threatening UK tunes.

The EP kicks off with its strongest cut in the form of Untroubled, which introduces itself with a background of hissing synth washes reminiscent of Disclosure, as warm as they are vibrant. An expertly applied chopped vocal line imposes another melodic layer upon the tune before the bass skids dazzlingly to a halt, filtering with a precise instability beneath stuttering synth blips and vocal cries. By midway through the track settles into a choppy groove which is effortlessly enjoyable in its hyperactivity, switching up and rising to a great second drop reminiscent of that in Mount Kimbie’s Mayor, while always keeping a strong dance thrust at the forefront of proceedings. Second cut Weird is another strong production, although unfortunately the powerful impact of hearing these elements for the first time is an experience that can’t be repeated. It’s a harder dance number, with a faster synth-bed tumbling over itself to form a percussive bass, and the same lightning-fast vocal and effect switches accent the tune. The track is also given a double remix treatment on this release, the first a much darker take by Borussia, who pushes the mutating synths to a deeper bass territory, accompanied by twitching synth streaks. Kastle takes the tune in a different direction, bringing the vocals to the front of the mix and dialling down the near-overwhelming pace of the original. This remix is definitely the stronger, introducing a meaty bassline and a fantastic breakdown that results in probably the best dance track on here besides Untroubled.

The third original cut is Thrill, which is essentially more of the same, so good news if you love 123Mrk’s sound, bad if you were looking for some radical variation. It’s a slower track with more attention given to space, the familiar moody vocals now accompanied by only soft synths and the sound of running water in the sparse breakdown. It’s a good track, showing that the producer doesn’t need to cram his tunes full of elements for them to sound good, and the skipping 2step beat is an especially nice touch.  Refined Madness is an undeniably skilful production, but when the magical effect of hearing these sounds for the first time wears off, it’s a little tiresome to see the exact same basic elements used on every track. Still, it’s great to see a new producer with such a distinctive sound in an early release, and there are a few ace tracks here alongside hints at a very promising future for the French producer.


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