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White Noise: Medlar - Sleep

Friday, 13 December 2013

Medlar - Sleep

Label: Wolf

Over a clutch of EPs and remixes on Wolf Music, Medlar has easily proved himself one of the label’s stars: a relaxed house connoisseur with a taste for jazzy and soulful arrangements. His tunes reliably hit a melodic sweetspot while charting emotional terrain beyond the obvious house roller, yet still his debut album Sleep comes as a surprise. A jazzy, kaleidoscopic dance odyssey, a tapestry of shifting vocal and instrumental samples, Sleep tells its story with a silky dream logic, and it’s an absolute pleasure from start to finish.

For all Medlar’s smooth 4/4 grooves, it’s his remarkable arrangement of samples which make Sleep such a winner. The drum patterns pay no heed to conventional song structure, each track is a web of sonic detritus snipped from an unholy array of sources, recontextualised with striking vision. At all times the listener is assaulted by samples: sudden voices, traffic noise and sirens, the seedy call of a trumpet or a sinuous double bass groove – and that’s just in the two-minute Lines. There’s a real joy behind Medlar’s sudden left-turns, stretching from the sudden dialtone that cuts off The Escape’s jazzy groove to Nov Dub’s unexpected transformation into a stripped drum workout. It’s as if he revels in the surprise of a new groove or melody, and wants to cram as many sounds into these 40 minutes as possible. Yet for all the freewheeling liberty of his compositions, Sleep never feels jarring as a listening experience: Medlar only cuts his sounds off when they’re to be replaced by another equally inventive slice of sonic wizardry.


While the constant addition of new melodies and motifs makes for a constantly stimulating listen, Medlar isn’t shy to let an idea run when he strikes gold. On these big numbers Detroit’s house vets are a clear touchstone, as Moodymann and Theo Parrish echo through the achingly soulful arrangements. Of these standouts, Tides makes for the biggest highlight, splintered hi-hats and soft chords effortlessly giving form to a rock-solid groove. Elsewhere Medlar’s wealth of ideas run riot: 1516 has a snarling bassline that runs under iridescent synths, while Nov Dub’s lofi vibes are as evocative as the work of any analogue house don.

Medlar’s wild imagination proves the main draw to Sleep, the jazz-inflected arrangements resulting in an invitingly cinematic listen. Yet it’s his ability to illicit emotions through these meticulous sample arrangements that’ll keep you coming back. On Blues, a patient bassline underpins mournful keys and a keening vocal, ‘from the heart’. Many artists claim a profound emotional connection with their music, but with Sleep, you don't need to be told that this is emotional music: you can feel it.


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