Saturday, 19 January 2013

Discovery: Simian Hunters - Blue Howl

From the South coast city of Brighton in the UK comes ambient/electronica solo project Simian Hunters. Though you might be thinking a city known for beaches and piers may be one of the last places expectant of anything electronic, those knowledgeable in the general electronic scene will know the city is home to one of the more iconic artists of the 90s house and big-beat surge in UK electronica. The identity of Hunters may be, as you'd expect, fairly limited behind that two-word alias (the name Antoine is all I've gained thus far), from what the artwork is hinting and suggesting at, Hunters' sound  and method of production is one of a contemporary but still lavishly textured variety. Debut EP 'Blue Howl' sets itself up then as much an opportunity as it is a starting point for Hunters to work around variation and the commitment from one track to the next. The two-track EP then, could be then a case of polar opposites, or perhaps something more linkable and progressive in Hunters' own development as a musician.

So starting off with the self-titled track, Blue Howl makes use of warm ambient-laced piano amid an icy passage of minimal techno beats and descending drops that rather press down on the music rather than rampantly hammer or clatter themselves. But it's the distant trawling of guitar that listeners will find their attention reeling towards, minimal riffs and echoed notation stretching through the soundscape as mixed vocals - consisting of murmured lows and chanted, pitched highs - create something of a blur about the track. All the while, there's still an important emphasis on rhythm, beats continuing to submerge from out of the fog of pianos and droned guitars. And eventually, there's something of a wimpered withdrawal as similarly to how it began, the piano is left to dawdle almost freely in the empty void in the track's closing seconds.

A Place Called Home, thankfully though taking on a much upbeat and driven role, doesn't necessarily divulge itself in largely conflicting palettes of instrumentation or synthetic deliverance. What starts as a brass-like billowing of horns is soon catapulted into a similarly techno-esque momentum of percussive beats and nostalgic instrumentation that here, feels somewhat teasing to the listener in how it remains in the backdrop. But that almost deliberate, and somewhat cheeky, placement works well in building up the track's more organic-sounding deliverance which by the half-way point is laced in this lavish withdrawal of percussion and woodwind-esque tones alike. I do find myself switching gaze between the flutter of this instrumentation, and the synthetic choice of drumbeats, and given how far afield this track tends to take its listener, it's more a mouth-scrunching concern - as opposed to some absolute faulter - as to whether this repetition is needed.

But needless to say, for a two-track EP with the ambient and electronica tags intentionally labelled upon it, Simian Hunters does indeed have the essential skill to take me somewhere while still holding enough of a credential to be rhythmic and driven. And while this journeying doesn't necessarily land at any physical or perhaps geographical solidarity, the metaphoric, and indeed textural, suggestions coming across on these tracks do give me something of an intrigued state of mind. A well deserved investment in my listening time and something that has the undeniable potential to take us places,  be it physically or emotionally. Blue Howl is out now and available at the artist's bandcamp here.

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