Lee Gamble was new to me when he released these two albums on the esteemed PAN label. Each release is unique and quite different from the other, but both are quite excellent and have earned him a rightful amount of respect.
Diversions 1994-1996 has such a simple concept that it’s disarming; Gamble deconstructed old jungle mixtapes and pieced together various ambient breakdowns, interludes, dropouts and passages into a sublime mini-album that is both beguiling and so damn smooth. Lest you think this might come off like an LTJ Bukem soaring piece of nostalgia, it’s far murkier and more subtle than that. It’s this mutation into something entirely other that makes Diversions feel so startlingly new in spite of its source material. There are a few clearer glimmers of the past it references, such as the jazzy tones of “Razor,” the melodic tinge of interlude “3, 4 Synthetics” or the straightforward breakbeat lurking in the distance on “Dollis Hill,” but most of the time he takes us down darker, less nostalgic corridors with sounds that are ambient but slightly “off."
Dutch Tvashar Plumes is a different beast entirely. It’s more of a proper album (Diversions is something between a mixtape and a mini-album), running a full 40 minutes and chock full of strange ideas. It’s perhaps a more accurate representation of Gamble’s skills and strengths, each track with its own weird personality. It’s glitchy and computerized, particularly on a track like "Skorokhodz” that sounds more like the software experiments of Florian Hecker than anything you’d hear on a dancefloor. But there is also a surprising accessibility despite the playful and experimental nature of the album; Gamble is unafraid to let a beat tie it all together. I find that combination of tinkering and accessibility to be not so far off from what Actress has been exploring in the last few years. However, I think that Gamble does it differently and far better. The weird glitchy groove of “Coma Skank” is infectious against all odds, and the mutant house of “Nowhen Hooks” is oddly irresistible. I think it works best as a full album start to finish, though; the progression as Gamble starts far out and reins it in, only to go back back out there all over again, is what makes it so appealing to me.
Both releases show off Gamble’s talent for the unusual and unexpected, but Dutch Tvashar Plumes is perhaps my favorite of the two. Both are highly recommended though… two sides of a musical personality that will no doubt continue to only get more interesting.