Companion is a 6-track EP that continues EMU’s quest to fuse dub and hip-hop beats with darker drum’n'bass breaks within an electro format. It works well. Opening cut ‘The Frog and the Pussycat’ recalls the layered, experimental threads of Fourtet, “Pioneer” had me recalling John Carpenter’s superb film-score work, though with an updated rhythm to drive it home.
Elsewhere there are references to Future Sound of London, the occasional sparesness of the Omni Trio and the mind-bending idealism of our own Pacific Heights and Shapeshifter. Last year’s EP from EMU, aka Darcy Gladwin, (One) was far more in the drum’n’bass camp - so Companion shows a nice progression while staying true to his musical roots.
The ominous sound of these songs is expertly matched in atmosphere, something that the likes of Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and our own Module have mastered; a crucial compliment to this sub-genre of electronica. The mix-n-match and borrowing from dub, jazz (Andy Watts’ trumpet is nice on the Salmonella Dub-meets Confuscious “New Horizons”) and minimalism helps to extend this breaks set out towards a new exciting place.
Well worth hearing.
THE PACKAGE MAGAZINE
A lazy afternoon call catches a suspiciously laidback, possibly even 'irie', Darcy Gladwin aka Aotearoa electronica artist Emu - listening to a jazz jam session in the lounge of his Wellington “stronghold”.
But it ain't the jazz in his lounge that we're here to talk about (provided for those concerned with the finer details - by members of frequent live EMU collaborators The Hikoikoi Band), it’s the upcoming release of Emu’s second EP, “Companion”.
But first, let's get basics sorted – EMU was born the unto this South Pacific world approximately three years ago as “a platform for musical experimentation”, according to Darcy – the outfit's founding and only member.
“Basically, it’s just me with my laptop and other assorted equipment, synths and delay boxes and such, and I have guests everywhere I play.” He says, name dropping musicians from dDub and Ghetto Royalty, along with the aforementioned.
The music EMU makes is intentionally eclectic, bridging numerous rivers in the greater electronic genre – from breaks, to drum'n'bass, and back through to dub and trip-hop. Darcy wisely highlights a sense of rhythm, motion and urgency as the governing factors in his composition.
“I guess the main thing that drives my music is the beats. I like to get people moving.” he says.
His EP “Companion”, an enhanced disc featuring videos and mp3‘s follows on from the work of his debut EP, “One”. With a total of six uniquely different tunes, the release points to Darcy’s both deft and versatile production skills.
“It's a selection of prime cuts from the EMU stronghold.” explains Darcy.
The EMU Stronghold? I'm envisioning some kind of fortified barracks on the top of Mt Victoria or some fucking hill in Wellington, with Tony Montana look-a-likes smoking cigars and toting machine guns on balconies, with big fuck off lions prowling the grounds, ripping any trespassers to pieces.
“Don't forget the paratroopers” says Darcy, interrupting my sprawling monolog. True – you do have to have paratroopers, don't you?
Anyhow, back to the music at hand. Recorded over the past 18 months, Companion is being released through Darcy's own label, Blue Amp.
“I'm affiliated with labels,” he says, “but I don't want to be with them because it puts me in a box” he says.
This defiance of commercial norms, according to Darcy, is the reason Companion sounds so musically diverse.
“Companion is a marker in a space in time. It's a sampler. I don't want to be put into a box.” he says. “No, Boxes are poorly lit with bad oxygen flow.”
The Companion release party will be held at the Khuja Lounge on Thursday 4 May.
Further afield, Emu will be returning to the South Island in July to build on the successes of a recent southern sojourn alongside Databass’s Romantek and Reality Compound.
“We like that circuit. We are very well received, they're a bit more open-minded in the South Island.“ he says.
“Aphex Twin, Shapeshifter ... mind-bending idealism helps to extend this towards a new exciting place well worth hearing.”
THE PACKAGE MAGAZINE
Stream or download any of the albums below at ko-fi
“BANGERS & MASH vol.11”
“TUFF LUVV” four flavours
“DUBHOP r13.8.3” electrodub
“TRIP in TIME” triphop & dnb