The Foreversouth Collections thus far have tended to favour the more accessible side of the Karachi electronic artists that come under its roster. In many ways this is beneficial, creating a more cohesive collection and challenging the artists to create in a more constrained, ‘poppier’ environment. Under some circumstances, this can lead to stagnation – artists that find an accessible sound tend to stick with it. Thankfully, Collections Vol.4 tends to the former.
This is perhaps most evident in the opener ‘Frank’ from Smax featuring Winston Bloom. I’ve commented before that listening to Smax can often feel like walking through a dense fog – there’s little to grab hold of in terms of melody, and even when one does appear, it shifts and evaporates into something else entirely. ‘Frank’ is similar in this regard, but the density of the track works in its favour. Electronic blips and bloops pop up aplenty, but Smax mixes the digital with plenty of analog sounds: a repeated guitar phrase, a gorgeous piano line and so on. The overall effect is something oddly warm and deep, and one of my favourite Smax tracks, and perhaps my favourite on the album itself, placing him firmly alongside artists like Nosaj Thing and Shlohmo. I just think it’s gorgeous.
The accessibility runs through the rest of the album. BNK gives us a groovy track with ‘Sonido’, with some garage influence. Eridu contributes another strange, alien track that churns and contorts itself. JOFU gives us some wonderfully orchestral and cinematic stop-and-start trap. Hatim, a recent Foreversouth signee, is unabashedly and unapologetically pop – just take a listen to the bombastic festival-ready ‘Back to the Start‘, which I have a soft spot for, mainly because of how wholeheartedly it submits to the EDM sound, it’s endearing. Here, on ‘Freeway’, he is similarly bubblegum but somewhat toothless and unmemorable compared to ‘Back to the Start’. TMPST offers up some chill ambient electronica. Friedi and Tollcrane both construct solid dance tracks, with Tollcrane drawing from 90’s rave hits to construct a 7-minute – and I generally hate this word – banger.
Dynoman turns his talents to jazzier notes, with flutes (courtesy Sahin Naqvi) and saxophones accenting new addition Abdullah Siddiqui’s vocals. As is often the case, Dynoman’s production is stellar and always surprising, hopping genres with a fluid ease. Siddiqui, here and on the Block-2 cut ‘Bullet’, has a strong and androgynous voice, perfect for electronic dance music, but sticks to melodramatic and anaemic lines that lack any real bite. He says there’s ‘nothing complex about my pain’, but rather than using this as a way of connecting with the audience through some kind of sincere ‘realness’, he also remarks ‘run, like clockwork on the sun’, which doesn’t seem to mean much in the context and instead comes across as obfuscating.
One thing that’s almost impossible not to notice about the Collection is the obsession with cut-up, pitch shifted vocals. Perhaps obsession is a strong word, let’s call it an infatuation. Over half the album uses the style. It’s not something to be critical of – after all, it’s just one more tool for these musicians – but there’s the impression that any lyric is viewed as a slab of meat on a butcher’s board.
Al Ak, for instance, uses this to great effect in the fun and bouncy ‘Close Enough’, but it’s also a style and structure he was using two years ago on SVNSET WAVES single ‘Sometimes’. What’s clear is that Al Ak is one of the most talented musicians on the scene. Seeing him reach backwards is bags of fun but… *cries at you could do better*
It’s certainly the dominating sound on the Collection. So it’s a relief, then, when NAWKSH keeps the DAW razor docked on ‘Y We Fall’. He pitch shifts, sure, but the voice is allowed room to linger and breathe rather than being immediately chopped up, and gives the track a strange, ethereal quality. This continues into Slowspin’s ‘Mercury’, where she meanders, duetting with a harmonium, anchored by a bass thrum.
Ultimately, despite the occasional repetition of style, Collections Vol. 4 is another strong and accessible release from the Foreversouth label, which is continually proving itself to be a bountiful well of talent, and attracting more with every release. We’ll certainly be in for a treat when it comes time for these artists to release full length LPs through the label.
***You can listen to and buy the album here. We’ve kindly been given some free download codes for Collections Vol. 4. We only have a couple left. If you like the sound of the trailer, let me know, either on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll message you the code.