The third release from Modern Math Recordings sees the Western Canadian label continue to explore new territory, both sonically and geographically. After showcasing Calgary duo Sanctums and Sunshine Coast/Vancouver resident Michael Red, our attention is directed further afield to Vancouver Island as the label continues to demonstrate the myriad of possibilities in Western Canadian underground electronic music; this time with a fantastic EP from Victoria’s Chris Longshanks, better known as Monolithium.
There are certainly elements of Monolithium’s Tantrummm EP that, at first listen, sound like quite a departure from the label’s previous releases. The title track, for example, fades slowly into clarity; a kick drum becomes rounder and fuller with emphasis on a half-time beat and dub techno style chord stabs reverberate around a sequenced synth line that builds in intensity, before an isolated vocal sample breaks the tension and unleashes a deep acid techno jam. The filter-sweeping bass line is brought to the foreground, though there is a calculated sense of restraint to the production that ensures a sense of space is retained. Crisp percussion sits well in contrast with the frantic stop-start energy of the bass whilst softer synth melodies evolve in the background to emphasize a moody undertone. The “Tantrummm VIP” edit is a little more upfront from the outset, with a steady 4/4 beat allowing the melodic elements of the original track to revolve around each other and develop as though in response to one another. By the time the song fades out, the soft chord stabs that began the track have mutated into a closing echo of the lead bass line; undeniably part of the same jam, yet potentially taking us somewhere completely different.
“Motive” builds a melancholic pattern of chords around a looping vocal sample and kick drum, all reverberating with one another to create a sense of wistful contemplation before a deep funk low end is provided by a synth riff with an irresistible groove. The bass line plays on the timing of the drums as percussive elements build the track into a dark and emotive work expertly designed for the dancefloor. Similarly, “She’s An Architect” builds an infectiously energetic techno track from moody pads and a syncopated bass line, but the tone here is a little more detached, hinted at first in the dark vocal sample, and reflected in the lead synth sequence; distorted resonance and slight shifts in tuning and timing give the melody an unhinged feeling that suits the tone of the track perfectly. It is in this track that the combination of darker tones within expertly crafted techno jams is most apparent, yet it is an approach that works brilliantly across the whole EP, and one that is perhaps best explained by the artist himself.
“I’m enjoying exploring spaces that feel like the reflected light you glimpse when you look at broken glass in the dark,” states Longshanks. “Like a flicker of melancholia that is actually sinister, but still results in unavoidable body movements. Something badass.”
Modern Math 003 will be released on March 7th.
By Andy Soloman