Brothers Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales from New Zealand had somewhat of an international breakthrough year in 2015 after releasing stellar EPs as Chaos In The CBD on Church and Peckham staple Rhythm Section International. The latter record, Midnight In Peckham, demonstrated the pair’s penchant for starry-eyed, jazz-inflecked deep house, however their first release of 2016, Digital Harmony, whilst still cut from a similar cloth, shows a different facet of their sound. Released through Mule Musiq, this record sees the brothers pushing complex, organic-sounding drums further forward in the mix whilst smearing out the tonal elements to create warm, hazy dance floor excursions.
The opening title track is a good example of this. Sampled drum kit and conga sounds build up a steady chug before an expansive, far-off pad sound and vocal snippets slowly appear that carry the piece through its eight-minute duration. Nothing so much as jumps out, but it’s the subtle complexities – a variation in a drum pattern here, a faint synth sound emerging there – that give the track its charm. ‘Return To Dust’ has more bounce thanks to a jumpy bass line, but the wide pads and twinkling melody take it confidently back to the territory occupied by the opener. It’s a simple formula but again executed admirably. The production is complex without being cluttered, and the whole track is imbued with comforting analogue warmth.
The final track, ‘Spheres’ is the most similar to the songs on the aforementioned record for Rhythm Section, with its trumpet, piano and organ slightly reminiscent of Linkwood Family’s classic ‘Miles Away’, but B-side opener, ‘Our Last Dance’ is the pick of the bunch. It again pairs dense and satisfyingly crunchy drums with classic string pads, but adds a tuneful bass line, plucked guitar sounds and jungle samples, whilst melody is taken care of by a gliding flute line and a few sparse piano notes. It’s not the type of song that would bash a dancefloor into a frenzy but could instead massage one into an eyes-closed trance for seven minutes, and it’s all the better for it.
Digital Hamrony EP is out 15th January on Mule Musiq – pre-order from the Kompakt website.