Tropics: Soft Vision EP

By , Oct 5 2010

Available on: Planet Mu 12″

‘Soft Vision’

Autumn is upon us. Wasps stumble and die on our streets. Kids trudge begrudgingly back to school. It is “party conference season.” All around us are signs that summer is finished, it is time to return to more serious matters, the age of enjoyment is over for now. So what could a summery EP by Tropics offer us at this point? Isn’t it two months too late? Well, not really. Because this EP, just like this time of year, is about echoed memories of brighter things not long past. It’s music that has this sense of retrograde brightness in the same way that Washed Out’s stuff does. This record makes you remember summer, but feel fine about it being over.

Opening track ‘Give It Up’ is obviously brilliant as soon as it starts. It opens with murky synth tinkering, then one snare crack, and from then on an endless coda of watery weeping, with these brutal snap-crack drums behind it all. It’s a very special song. The vocal sample is used to beautiful effect. It goes on and on, again and again, and you welcome it as you never want it to end. It’s fairly slow but totally relentless. The track itself feels like an imposition on the vocals, which hang above the relentlessly precise beat and two-note bassline as if scared to get involved. Like many of the best dance tracks, it’s all about a frail human voice coming up against impersonal, uncompromising digital sounds and subsequently a clash of personality taking place, in the most inspiring way possible.

‘Melorr’, placed in the middle of the EP, is a fairly unexceptional track, just chugging along, going nowhere fast, with a lead guitar trill adding to the record’s bonafide 80s-nostalgia credentials. But in general it’s a bit dull. Let’s move on.

The EP’s title track is undeniably retro, with a vocal sample that sounds like something from Massive Attack. The vocal is continuous, but the bass and drums fluctuate in volume and tempo underneath it. Common throughout all these songs is the relentless, simplistic bass and minimally arranged beat. Tropics, a.k.a Chris Ward, seems very keen on the emotional power of never letting things slip for a moment; these tracks have no gaps, no spaces for suspense. Once they get going, they keep going. ‘Soft Vision’ is a prime example of this. The track builds more and more but never loses what it gains. A female vocal cries out continuously as the bass slithers on and on, indifferent.

‘Soft Vision’ is the leading track from the record and the one getting all the praise, but I feel that ‘Give It Up’ deserves much more attention. ‘Soft Vision’ sounds good and would / will be amazing in a club but it doesn’t alter the course of your day in the way that ‘Give It Up’ does. ‘Give It Up’ is one of those dance records that reminds you of what you love about the whole idea of dance music to begin; music in the purest, simplest form possible, offering you the chance to feel every emotion at once.

James Hampson

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