Fis - Duckdive EP
We’ve been supporting Samurai’s vinyl-only offshoot Horo since the early days of HORO001 back in December and now, moving into the murky depths of Summer’s end, the sub-label has firmly established itself as a standalone bastion of intelligent creativity, perhaps even surpassing the heady heights we’ve come to expect of its parent. Championing music from a variety of different backgrounds including the label’s New Zealand homeland, the series has presented work from some of this generation’s key emerging and established talents alike: ASC, Tokyo Prose, Sam KDC, Clarity and Overlook.
Above all there’s a keen sense of collectability to each release; with news coming through that the series’ tenth will be its last, I don’t think I speak for myself when saying I’ve become the clambering consumer Horo deserves, cherishing each piece of deliciously coloured ten-inch vinyl with a childlike enthusiasm I can only relate to a shiny-Charizard upper-echelon of greatness. An assured level of excellence as standard sounds like a pretty fair deal… except Horo’s seventh instalment offers so much more. The Duckdive EP is as close to a game-changer we are likely to get in the coming years; a breathtakingly original debut from another NZ native. Step forward Fis.
The EP’s opener “DMT Usher” is a showstopping piece of engineering quite unlike anything the realm of 170 DnB has given us so far: its subdued opening shatters into a recoiling cyclone of helicopter blades and metallic snaps, an industrial and unrelenting piece laced with warm, clockwork structured subs. “Love, Drama Stress”’ blisteringly paced tribal percussion is unrelenting, with its monotonous repetition of the three key words standing as the only direct, dystopian emotional connection between music and artist within these four walls. Once the vocals dissolve we are left with a breathless exercise in plunging sub modulation. “Duckdive” pairs an unplaceable growling recess of a sample with its omnipresent ticking claps that give meaning to its title. A feral animosity and engaging sum of parts. “K Slap” takes solace in understatement, as its carefully dimmed arrangement strays from the obvious. Pierced with snarling mids, sub-depth maneuvers and thundering slaps, the track is the most ambiguous of the 4, at once both fascinating and menacing.
One Soundcloud user lambasted Fis’ technique as a mindless exercise in peculiar sound engineering that lacks an essential emotive drive. The same accusations have been levelled towards Amon Tobin throughout his career too, with critics suggesting that his objectual interpretations tread the line between the sonically fascinating and the arbitrarily unfulfilling. Whilst certainly not an invalid point to make, this criticism attempts to detract (unsuccesfully) from the overwhelming strength in expertise Fis injects into his work. A processed, grounded four-track set with an emphasis on the clinical, gritty natural rather than the fantastical, Fis is a true original with an already unmistakable sound, and Samurai have really excelled themselves with this coup of an EP. Once again in glorious dark-blue marble twelve-inch, this is possibly Urban Essence’s most anticipated release of the year, and no doubt by the time his six-track Exit EP comes along we’ll be getting ridiculously excited all over again.