The last time we saw District was way back in April 2013 with his Transmission / LV-223 single. Many suns and moons has passed since. Chestplate once again finds District delivering three tracks that touch on the three major ‘sonic schools’ which have been influencing the scene this year – the meditative foundational style, the percussive floor destroyers and the dubstep x techno axis. Each reflect an aspect of a producer who has been very quiet recently. Perhaps District is attempting to find a new voice, one that isn’t so indebted to the ‘dungeon sound’ he and Sleeper enjoyed (along with other producers) during that renaissance back in 2010 to 2012. While the tracks present all play with the various troupes of each ‘school’, none rewrite the rule book, leading to an enjoyable but soon forgotten listen.
CHST031 opens with the meditative earth mover ‘Roy’s Theme’. A mournful siren call, in Distance’s signature heart-on-sleeve melodic sense arcs high above the dance’s head, punctuated by fractured, over-driven guitar-like melodic solo. It’s the perfect mixture between aggression and urban ennui that marked the best of what ’06 had to offer. ‘Roy’s Theme’ is carried by a lurching sub that feels like a warm breeze across your face when you stand next to the speaker box. Clipped hi-hats and crisp snares keep things moving, but honestly it’s really about that lavender synth that illuminates the night sky.
‘Aftermath’ finds itself squarely in that percussive floor destroyer category, much like Klax and Disonata’s highly under-rated ‘Lost Souls’ or Sleeper’s ‘Narcissus’, with a snarling bass that possesses the viciousness and inbred rage of a fighting dog. District’s trademark mid-range will only make your face more contorted so make sure there aren’t any sneaky photographers around and bass-face away. Pulsations of digital ephemera emerge from the void, and if you’re not careful they’ll crack your head in two. All the while, between the rhythmic negative space, extra percussive pivots really get the gun fingers going. Top shelf stuff.
Finally, District closes with the cyberpunk dubstep x techno momentum of ‘Tempest’. All hope and desire is lost, counted down by a slowly morphing crash, as a needling acidic line worms its way into your ear drum. In measured poise and balance, a heaving, techno indebted bass weight, clinical percussion, and flecks of auburn hued sky blue synth echo forwards toward dubspace all interweave beautifully across the entirety of ‘Tempest’. The most interesting section (sonically speaking) is that mind-altering shuffled rhythmic breakdown that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Osiris release. Out of the three tracks present, ‘Tempest’ finds District in a comfortable middle ground between the more industrial swerve of recent Osiris transmissions and the more halfstep formula, which to say isn’t a bad thing, and is the most fully realised tune on the EP.
It seems that CHST031 sees District trying on different (sonic) hats, so to speak. This is a partial set-back from a producer with such a brilliant back catalogue. However, growth is often accompanied by set backs and trip ups. District seems to be a in a state of evolution, continuing to find new niches and pockets to develop his personality. Let’s see where the year takes him. Overall, Chestplate in 2014 is seeing birth-pangs as it’s stable of artists are beginning to push themselves further out of their comfort zones and really exploring with their voices (however, my opinion may be premature as the label is only two releases into 2014). That being said, it’s an exciting time for the older labels, overall, as some have begun to expand or rebirth themselves into newer incarnations. Chestplate is then just an expression of this overall trend and again is proof that the scene is in great health.