Rarely has a more curious email and introduction crept across the Rats submissions inbox; a mass of blue links to new music and playlists, a twitch of a bio with no PR pressed ego, no hard sell, no logo, just shyness and a tentative five-line hello. I glide through the playlists of leftfield electro, they pulse and they jibe and they contort in rhythm. And as the sounds coalesce and shimmer and swell, I got no idea what I’m reviewing.
A back and forth later and things get cleared up, three of those tracks form a single. I’m not used to hunting and tracking this info, but I’m in, I’m infected, invested. The single is ‘Happy’, from Darren Rook’s ‘Project P’, it’s a twist of uneasy euphorics.
‘Happy’ lives in the imprint of deep ambient house, with a slow moving grove that evolves through low light. As the initial straight thud of a constant four bass drum gets loosened by snare rolls and snaps, it’s the rumble of bass that propels us. It glows with the warmth of an end of night buzz with a minimalist, still-sticky feel. Around it, above it, progressions of synthlines strip club tracks and pop sounds right down to their fluidic innards. Brief interruptions of once glittered melodies get scattered through EQs and filters; we’re caught in some half clammy hypnotised fix with a guest vocal only for guidance.
While I can’t vouch completely for their need for inclusion, I can see the temptation and want. As a texture alone, the words move and swirl, giving clarity that might otherwise be missing. But I can’t help but feel a lean too far towards house blueprints, that have otherwise been joyously toyed with.
After ‘Happy’ comes ‘Tranquil’, with the down tempo comfort of nostalgic revival that reveals a soft uplift in feel. Occasional flecks of acoustic guitars add a cool glaze and frost to the earth sounding synths. There’s a new flexibility, a less tempered beat, a high croon of bent notes that slink through the shadows, bring in something that sounds like reflection. There’s the icy jerked soundscapes of Ghost Culture and Fader, with the calm reassurance and magnetic pull of Teen Daze and M83 chillwave.
‘Long Mile’ is the loosest, least lucid of all, with twisted, manipulated electro organics. It’s a flow, it’s a sketch, we’re in a dream of cool neons. Like some unfocused image or first draft of a memory, it drifts and collects and unsettles. Uneven attacks wilt and wallow, they’re pinned down by pristine percussion. It’s emotive and mournful, short lived and clean, it almost begs for answers when over.
To call Rook “a musician of the bedroom variety”, as he said in that shy five-line into, is a disservice to sounds he creates. In the bodies of music and playlists sent over, there’s loose linked expressions of imagination, intrigue, excitement and glitch-filtered flow. This first single just hints at the expansive tracks that I hope he’ll release in good time. There’s two year’s worth of work to unearth, and a vast wealth of crystallised sharpened ideas to let loose on new sets of ears.