My favorite track of 2011 was Slava’s “Dreaming Tiger”, a steaming slab of uncategorizable house marked by sticky grunts of keyboard funk and icy daubs of funereal chanting. It was both a canned and an uncanny conjuration that took elements that shouldn’t have worked together and made them sound sublime. Given his home city of Chicago, many have categorized Slava’s Soft Control, his most recent EP for Daniel Lopatin’s Software label, as his “footwork” outing, but there’s little of the manic energy and epileptic contortions that drive that genre’s loopy loops to have such a captivating, possessive hold over its factions.
The jittery rhythms, crystalline chords, and affectively abbreviated vocal morsels smack dab in the middle of Soft Control might form what could be called “ambient juke” if such a term weren’t a bit absurd. “Whirlpool”, “I Had”, and “I’ve Got Feelings Too” (the latter cribbing a line from Britney’s “I’m a Slave 4 U”) contrapose the bustling to the beatific by way of cautiously stark synths. Beyond this, the EP is then bookended by two outliers. Commencent piece “File” lurches at a more traditional gait, its chord progressions recalling nothing so odd as Sasha’s “Xpander” — though please don’t be thrown off by this comparison. Closer “Swan” plucks and deforms its signature harp sound in ways that illustrate how well “organic” instruments have benefited from the introduction of the sampler in the past 30 years. Why Slava decided to stop on just these five tracks is beyond me as Soft Control feels like petals fallen from a larger “music bouquet” (as Lopatin recently called it), but as an appeasement until Slava finds his next “Dreaming Tiger”, it’ll do.