If you listened to our recently-released Truancy Compilation Vol. 1, you no doubt noticed Darling Farah’s “Varsity” for its playful, rejuvenating take on classic house and garage (and if you haven’t downloaded the compilation yet, hustle on over here to grab it). At just 19 years old, Darling Farah (Detroit-born Kamau Baaqi) boasts the maturity, production skills, and comfortable-in-his-own-skin quality of artists that have been making music since he was still in diapers. Despite his current residence in the United Arab Emirates, the eternal legacy of Detroit techno shines through clearly in his productions. On his new EXXY EP, slated for a June 20th release on the quietly impressive Civil Music, he serves up four slabs of expansive, soul-warming house/techno fusions that make the perfect soundtrack for a late-night comedown. Let me first throw out the disclaimer that it’s absolutely vital that you don’t listen to these tunes over your laptop speakers. Aside from missing out on the kick drum almost entirely (which happened to me on a couple tracks), there are so many smaller elements that you’ll miss out on – so do the respectful thing and play this EP over some good speakers.
Farah kicks off the title track “Exxy” with rich, old school organ stabs set against a backdrop of swirling wind noises. He builds up a tight, swinging percussive groove before stripping the track down to its essential cardiac elements: a kick, short vocal snippets, and synth stabs. Although “Exxy” reaches several points where the organ stabs cry out emphatically and soar above everything else in a triumphant frenzy, most of the track is devoted to slow build ups and understated alterations of aspects like filters and drum patterns. And this is something you’ll notice about Darling Farah’s production style on this EP: his striking ability to make a track sound dynamic and take it on a journey without really making any fundamental changes to its structure. This innate talent is most visible on “Younger,” an aimlessly sprawling track that loops Britney’s vocals from “I’m A Slave 4 U” to infinity. With heavily-filtered organ stabs and no percussion to speak of aside from a muffled, intermittent kick drum, the centerpiece of this track is the vocal sample, which Farah manipulates endlessly with subtle effects processing. For how minimal the track is you would expect it to lose steam well before it comes to an end, but Farah keeps it charged by constantly playing with anticipation and expectation. You could bored of this one pretty quickly if you don’t pay attention to it, but if you focus on the details, “Younger” is a truly rewarding listen.
“Crown” opens the B-side of the EP with a dense ambient soundscape consisting of vinyl hiss and droning metallic tones. Over the course of two minutes a loose-limbed house rhythm is constructed from raw percussion elements that have all been nudged perfectly off the rigid grid, lending a nice human touch to the production. Melodically, “Crown” is pretty minimal, implementing little more than soulful vocal stabs that envelop you in an unexpected warmth. The result is an organic, intimate, and moving track that would find itself perfectly at home in a Theo Parrish set. “Show Me” brings EXXY to a close with some of the most chin scratching, left field rhythmic work you’re likely to hear in a dance track this year. For the first half of the track, the fuzzy, off-kilter synth stabs and vocal snippets struggle to settle into a harmonious groove with the innovative drum patterns (a combination of thumping kick drum with tidy micro-house percussion). A 4×4 kick finally brings everything into perfect alignment, though, and the result is nothing short of epiphanal, a stunningly beautiful way to wrap up the all-too-short EP. While each track on EXXY presents a different perspective on house and techno in 2011, the diverse styles are all unified under Darling Farah’s singular production vision. This one’s a game changer, to say the least!
Darling Farah – EXXY (Civil Music) out on June 20th.