In a genre that loves nothing more than a label, 2016 was the year of lo-fi house. Released as a reaction to huge club tracks, fit for cavernous spaces, it became synonymous with the bedroom producer looking to simplify house music to its base elements.
Whether lo-fi house was actually a thing at all is open to debate. More than likely it was a re-branding of a style of electronic music that had been around for years. However, the aesthetics that made it so intriguing, the raw, rough and ready style meant that when done well, the results sounded refreshingly unorthodox.
After a string of releases via labels such as Royal Oak, Spring Theory, and Magicwire, Project Pablo (aka Montreal’s Patrick Holland) releases his second EP for Ninja Tune after last year’s “Hope You’re Well”. It’s a trim, free-flowing EP that finds Holland keeping things as minimal and “lo-fi” as possible.
Opener “Napolenta” serves as the perfect introduction to spring sunshine after months of winter darkness. Built on easy on the ear snares and a bright, looping synth motif, it exudes a warm sunshine groove. Created using just a drum machine and an analog synth, it’s a perfect lesson in how to achieve more with less.
The fidgety minimal tech of “Remind Me Tomorrow” quickly locks in with a deep automated groove and washes of synths. It’s repetitive glitchiness gradually becomes more and more hypnotic as Holland lets the beat play out, avoiding the temptation to overload the track with excess. “Last Day” is a tranquil, moody piano track that he improvised and recorded in a spare hour before leaving the studio. While a relatively slight piece, the transitory tone serves as the perfect pause before things become a little more lively.
“Less and Less” is a masterclass in layering percussion as Holland coats choppy house beats and jumpy hi-hat over echoing house synths. It may have been released in 2018, but its spirit lies in the early 1990s. On closer, “I Heard You Breathing”, Holland stretches the idea of repetition further as radiant synth chords punctuate an off-kilter groove built around squelchy beats and an incessant high-frequency noise that squalls like a distant car alarm.
There’s Always More at the Store is a groovy, soulful and welcome addition to Project Pablo’s already impressive discography.