Various Artists – Chromophore EP (Slow Life)

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It’s quite a spectacle nowadays when you witness something completely different being brought to the table, especially in a market as broad as house and techno. The Berlin-based Slow Life crew have managed to do exactly that. With a compact but high grade back catalogue of analogue cuts, their releases seem to get snapped up quicker than they are hitting the shelves. The Italian-Spanish collective’s relatively sparse release schedule reflects their relaxed outlook on life but is also testament to their attention to detail. The scarcity of releases has worked in their favour and created well deserved hype around the family, although it can also be a little frustrating for discerning collectors. But this is by no means a bad thing.

The six core members, DJ’s Laurine, DJ Tree and Cecilio alongside producer S.Moreira, graphic designer Santi Uribe and founding member P.Villalba, all share similar musical ideals and philosophies. This has provided the base for a strong, close-knit bond that is rarely seen these days and is reflected in the quality of the musical output. The sixth release has taken its time to see the light of day but the wait has been worthwhile. It sees new producers join the vintage characters that have helped build the success of the label.

Stylistically, this EP is a real winner. Slick, textured production work is teamed with a clear and intelligent understanding of how to make the most of an analogue studio toolkit to provide something far removed from generic deep house efforts. With a scene so overrun with soulless music, this is a real reminder of what can be achieved if you know what you’re doing.

Previous Slow Life releases have always stood out from the pack because they have something unique to offer the listener. Moody and melancholic but always packing that extra punch regardless of how stripped back and delicate they might come across. Given that S.Moreira has held down the fort for the past five releases really shows how much confidence the rest of the family have in him, so it’s also a welcome surprise to see some new blood in amongst the hustle and bustle.

The general feel of the sixth Slow Life offering is definitively off kilter and delightfully weird. It’s always a challenge to keep your integrity when it might seem easier to go down the route of cashing in, but with the strong family ethos already giving such a solid backbone for the collective to build on, it is reassuring to see them stick to what they love.

Mick Welch’s ‘Serenity’ is a classic analogue workout, hitting all the right buttons as dusty pads intertwine with delicately arpeggiated synths that are grounded by solid 909 percussion. Luis Malon proves he is also one to keep an eye on with the intricately trippy ‘Good Morning’. This is certainly a track for those who like their electronica.

Label mainstay S.Moreira showcases the first of two solo outings on the EP. A stripped back piece of production with an exuberant bassline to boot which bumbles along to keep everything moving in the right direction, textbook stuff from the producer-in-chief. Seafoam offers up ‘Raz’ with some super-chilled breaks, tripped-out washy pads and pulsing bass which proves to be a winning combo despite its simplicity.

provides some silky break programming and a heavy dash of futuristic funk licks on the second plate with ‘Knotted’. It’s a welcome return from the guys who provided some real rare gems back in the late nineties on the highly revered An Alien Recordings imprint. ‘C2m’ sees S.Moreira tag team with Primary Perception. Off-key pads sit beneath subtle bleeps and clicks, all nestled between delicately crafted percussion. You might be thinking ‘Where’s the drop?’, but that’s the beauty of this style of production. It’s tense, slightly frustrating but weirdly satisfying at the same time.

The second solo offering from S.Moreira, and probably the highlight of the EP, is a real class act. Chunky analogue percussion is driven by heavy resonant synth work with an underlying rumble of bass neatly wrapping everything together. Spacey pads help create a seriously beautiful atmosphere on this one with a definite nod to the old rave sound of the early nineties thrown in for good measure. Natural progression is the winner on this track as it strips back to the bare basics every so often then dives back in to make sure you’re still paying full attention. More of this please!

Finishing up is ‘Je Zie’ and it is probably previous Slow Life affiliate Saverio Celestri’s most accomplished work to date. It oozes the strange kind of feeling that the label has become synonymous for and is the perfect closer to a seriously well thought out choice of tracks.

As a whole, this is a tasty piece of wax and one that will only see the Slow Life collective’s stock rise another notch. Their patience has paid off as shown by the quality of the pressing, artwork and general calibre of the music. Any frustrated collectors are likely to be assuaged by the consistent quality of this release.