2011 proved to be Kevin McPhee’s breakout year and branded him as one of Canada’s new school house poster boys. Up until now he had the tendency to take the core elements of house music, throw them in a slow dysfunctional blender and sprinkle distant bleeps & edgy bass tones on top. Out of the batch of records he released last year the “Blue Organ EP” on Hypercolour would be our first pick; the EP showcased a variety of drawn out and melodramatic textures and built on the slow house template he had been cultivating. After an almost completely silent year he’s back in the game with a four-track EP for West Norwood Cassette Library’s WNCL Recordings. The “In Circles” EP shows McPhee leave behind most of the sensuality of his early releases, instead opting for an arsenal of much faster, techno leaning sounds.
This EP was definitely crafted with DJs in mind, as you won’t find any meandering intros or breakdowns. In general, the EP feels larger than its predecessors with kicks that pop in the same way as many early Chicago productions. Both the self-titled “In Circles” and “Do” are centered on physical and twisted basslines, which are complemented with knackered kitchen sink percussion in a similar vein as some of Tessela’s and Blawan’s productions. “In Circles” in particular has no major changes, but is thunderous as well as slightly acidic. It’s the sort of loopy track that lets elements slowly slide into place while keeping a constant thud that, when played at the right time, is hypnotic. On the other hand, “Do” is much more playful and brings up residuals of his earlier productions; this is mostly due to the woozy synths and the faintly familiar vocal samples he plays with over the beat. It wouldn’t be out of line to consider this a mutated beat track.
The B-side of this record delves deeper into late night techno territory, especially with the speedy “Pumpkin“. The track is relatively skint on parts with maybe 5 or 6 elements in play at any moment. His pairing of rolling kicks with some sort of chugging percussion is on point and robotic hums act as builds before bubbling synth sounds take over for the remainder of the track. Aside from that there isn’t much else going on. The closer “The Blind Whirring of Machinery” is a fitting end and name as it does sound as if we’re listening to factory machinery creating a product. Using the same base sounds as “Pumpkin” the track fizzles, while the low-end pressure threatens to collapse our chests. Every so often McPhee sneaks in an acid bassline, which seems to spring from the delay of the mechanic lead sounds.
Stream: Kevin McPhee – In Circles (WNCL Recordings)
After his year of silence this is a welcome return and he’s clearly been honing in on a sound that is familiar, yet breaks the smooth, lofty music we usually associate his name with. He’s still a young artist, who’s developing a style as he goes along. Hopefully, this doesn’t signal the jumping between styles many artists fall victim to. As of right now, he has one impressive discography for only two years’ worth of releases and this sits at the top along with his Hypercolour EP.
Kevin McPhee’s In Circles is available now on WNCL Recordings.