Various Replicas: VA7 (Various)
Various Production: Shed / Opus / Worse / Rush (Various)
Just as they originally surfaced several years ago, Various Production continue to quietly release tracks and EPs as isolated stand-alones. Here’s a round-up of a handful of their releases over the last year or so… “Opus” is a bit closer to what fans of the project’s 2006 album, The World Is Gone, might expect.
It’s anchored by a languid beat and a tiny, percolating acid bass phrase, but it’s mainly about the prolonged tension of its drones and an airy female vocal.
“Shed” feels more distinctly of the moment, with its clipped delivery of breakbeat patterns and references to drum & bass without ever fully falling in line. It’s much more musically exciting to me compared to “Opus”; its skittering, manipulated beats and patterns turn the jungle / drum & bass resurgence on its side in a way that’s distinctly different from the slowed down style of Modern Love or Andy Stott releases.
The collective’s offering, “Worse,” reminds me of the fun spirit of Millie & Andrea’s Daphne 12"s (some of which appeared on their recent Drop the Vowels album on Modern Love), mainly in the sense that it piles on references to all sorts of dance music trends without being fully rooted in any one of them. There are rave stabs, deep brown-sound booms, James Brown samples, and a truly fantastic ping-ponging between swing time and ordinary sixteenths. Side-stepping the usual anonymous umbrella of Various Production slightly is the VA7 EP which comes credited to Various Replicas; no doubt the name change signifies some shift in personnel behind the music, because the sound is fairly different. The most immediately dancefloor compatible track of the bunch is “12seven,” a really slick hybrid of current trends, including a staggered kick, jaunty syncopation, and effective use of samples. Its house kit gives it a dancefloor compatibility that many of VP’s other tracks don’t necessarily have, so it’s probably my pick for the best of the litter. Its slightly disorienting refrain of repetitive synth sounds reminds me of some of Villalobos’s more blissed out early tracks (“Panpot Spliff” on Perlon comes to mind). On the flipside, “Key” is more downtempo and dense, a moody electro-R&B crossover instrumental. Its crisp claps provide a nice contrast to the reverberated pads and synths that otherwise characterize it, a handsome accompaniment to the much more upbeat A-side. The Rush single has two tracks instead of being a one-off, so it already feels more diverse. “Rush” is quite different from all of these others, with a breathy female vocal and a jaunty arrangement that seems to fuse footwork with 2-step and garage sounds. Its flipside, “01110100-01110010-01110101,” may contain the least memorable song title of recent past, and yet it’s somehow deceivingly infectious as a chorus. It slows the beat down into more of a trip-hop sort of groove, though its synthy arrangements still feel fresh. Each of these offerings is interesting in its own way, like facets on a complex gemstone, showing off different strengths and shades and luminescence.