Available on: free download
OK, yes, the video on the download page is weird – no doubt there’s a reason for it – but it’s weirder than the music, so don’t be put off by that. In fact, if anything’s likely to put you off, it’s the uncompromising nature of Dominik Dvorak’s grime-leaning-but-not-grime tracks as Felicita. Which, arguably, is a good thing.
They’re not uncompromising in that ‘up front’ term often used these days, but rather the lack of inhibitions on display. Dvorak has been writing as a folk musician for years, but in the last two or so has begun to produce on computer. The results to date have been quite far ranging, often showcased in live sets at his and Throwing Shade’s club night Sheikha, as well as various performances for more ‘arts-related’ international shows.
(>’.’)># is described simply as ‘a reflection of all the music [he’s] been obsessed with over the past six months: martial grime patterns, Renaissance shawms, Wang Leehom’s ‘chinked out’ fusion sound [Leehom’s term, not his], symphonic metal, etc.’ – so not really your standard fare. Dvorak channels this by employing quite garish General MIDI instruments alongside subtler, more detailed live percussion samples, a pairing probably derived from Eastern production and orchestration techniques. Around this are explosive gestures and solid, familiar, battering drum machines in-keeping with contemporary club music. The result has strains of funk carioca, the bizarrely exciting era of sino-grime and angular folk melodies, no doubt from regions this reviewer wouldn’t be able to point to on a map.
Opener ‘slavs wi sparkley eyes’ is the most straight forward of the bunch, a loping, jerking, thumping march with gongs, cymbals, wood blocks and log drums, heavily delayed vocals, plucked guitar-like instruments and fuzz bass weaving and striking through it. ‘always maestoso’ enters as a nightmare kids’ TV show, laser machine gunning, keyboard brass blasting around warped baby talk and a sparse, harmony punctuating beat. Title track ‘(>’.’)>#’ is the most infuriating of the selection, its carefully lop-sided beat and use of space rubbing uncomfortably against a Captain Beefheart approach to writhing, sprinkled harmony on high-register keys. However, ‘welcome home la’ ties up proceedings with the most stylistically adventurous of the EP’s four tracks, a strange mix of Sonic the Hedgehog-like brash melody with Miami bass energy.
(>’.’)># is a strange combination of inspiration, track selection and projected character resulting in very challenging music. However, it’s also music with real potential; while currently erring more towards James Ferraro in its purposefully scattershot, irreverent nature, it really isn’t too far removed from the productions of UNO’s Mykki Blanco-producing Gobby and Arca, the rampant, Hawerchuk-like experiments of Sd Laika on Visionist’s Lost Codes label, Fatima Al-Qadiri’s ‘Desert Strike’ for Fade To Mind, or Murlo’s manic take on soca.
Thinking about it, there is probably no end of new company coming through on this more experimental scene, occupied with twisting music for dancing into new shapes. While presently in a state of flux, part of what makes things interesting for listeners is observing the growth. If you’re plugged in to it, keep an ear on Felicita; for newcomers this may be a very awkward introduction, but I have a suspicion he will develop quickly from this point.