Percussion Lab founder Praveen Sharma debuted a mix of house-and garage-fired beats for his well-trafficked DJ/visual artist/label collective site awhile back, yielding a good deal of clicks. Heavy on the atmospheric and melodic end of danceable bass music, Sharma branded it “Lovestep”. Blame the selection for its silly moniker, but look past it. A host of like-minded producers such as Falty DL, Pangaea, and DFRNT fill the 53-minute set, an experiment indicative of an artful shift in the dubstep landscape that had artists incorporating far more garage influences and dub techno in their tracks, rather than wobbly sub-bass and dialogue cribbed from gangster films.
The producers featured on the “Lovestep” mix as well as the general structure of it—its shuffling rhythms and melds of frayed vocals and reverb trails—further informed what Praveen Sharma and Travis “Machinedrum” Stewart had been building under the Sepalcure name. Fleur follows the act’s 2010 Love Pressure EP, and it’s the second release that the Brooklyn-based duo has turned in at Scuba’s Hotflush label. Before any of their ornate beats were pressed and slipped into Hotflush sleeves, Sepalcure performed at Unsound, a Poland-born annual music festival held recently in New York City. The event flier read like Sharma’s “Lovestep” tracklist—TRG, Untold, and more names who’ve played a role in encouraging the house-powered, dubby work that was finding its way into Sepalcure’s respective hard drives at the time. Sure, this bass music sub-sub-genre is more of a thing now, but when people were feverishly trading the “Lovestep” URL, it wasn’t.
Between cuts from Joy Orbison and Floating Points, Sharma slipped in a glitzy, gurgling Sepalcure track called “Deep City Insects” toward the adjournment of “Lovestep”. “Deep City…” differs significantly from the folky electronic stuff Sharma put out with Benoit Pioulard a little more than a year ahead of it, or the stuttering beats that Stewart had been doing as Machinedrum. Through its muddy bass and jarring vocal edits, “Deep City Insects” cooks but sounds comparatively unvarnished among the premium tracks that populate the rest of the mix. Sepalcure’s Love Pressure, which followed soon after Sharma debuted his Percussion Lab set (and the subsequent “Lovestep 2” in February 2010), courses with classic house-style synths and haunting MC bits and improves noticeably on the blueprint. Fleur is an even more colorful endeavor, where sensual dance music, ambient, and garage drum programming are bridged in four shadowy and affecting cuts.
While the vocals that Sepalcure prominently feature on Fleur stunner “No Think” are of the grab, cut, and paste ilk that will cement Falty DL’s debut LP a headphone classic for years to come (PM’s 2009 electronic favorite), the duo’s now far-more embellished beats offer spots of weirdness that their immediate peers are less likely to explore. After the title track unfurls on a bed of weathered vinyl grooves and a knocking beat, there’s strumming—ugly chords are struck on old acoustic guitars and kalimbas are plucked gingerly throughout. Wind chimes and background street hollers figure into “Insides”, a widescreen shot at film music that closes out Fleur. Sepalcure’s idiosyncrasies work in the mix, and they’re integral without derailing what’s seemingly most important—the record’s copious melodies and the full “finished” song feel, communicated in a dense haze of chopped vocals, woodblock clacks, and strings that sneak in and take leave with the jerky motions of a pissed rattlesnake.
Productions from Sepalcure either smolder (like the beatless and fuzzed-out “Inside”) or burn quickly, like the pulses that stir under an ultimately lethargic “No Think”, which just happens to sit on quickening, heartbeat-aping kicks. Like Love Pressure‘s “Every Day of My Life”, “Your Love” is hurried and jittery. It’s flooded with syrupy synths and warped rave vocals, and should sit nicely on a mix of Martyn’s barreling techno ruminations or moments from 2010’s Safehouses, a soulful outing from R&S’s Pariah that finds jungle breakbeats mingling with characteristics more common of streamlined dubstep production. In its pattern of needling micro keyboard tones, Fleur‘s “No Think” prods with the clean finish of minimal techno, but it’s absorbing and expansive, blanketed with breathy feminine choruses at every turn. The male-sourced vocals (or, what appear to be male) generally include the word “love,” a theme that doesn’t escape Sepalcure’s track-naming process either. Those who offered well-deserved accolades for Pariah, a hard-working R&S newbie named James Blake, or for Ital Tek’s Midnight Colour will find a darker setting but similar energy in Fleur—Sepalcure are polishing a romantic, ghostly interpretation of bass music, in line with the mix of tracks that furthered its humble beginnings.