Available on: Friends of Friends LP

Every once in a while you get sent an album that stops you in your tracks; albums that you spend months digesting and appreciating. Salva’s debut, Complex Housing, is one such album. Released on the burgeoning Friends of Friends label it’s been worming its way into my brain for the last few months, every listen bringing new details and aspects of the music to my attention.

The San Francisco based producer and label head (he runs Frite Nite) has been a name on many key people’s lips in the past year, not least those in the LuckyMe and Low End Theory circles – the kind of accolades that are sure to help propel Salva’s debut to the forefront of electronic tastemakers and fans alike. Complex Housing has a colourful quality and sonic diversity that inevitably bring to mind a range of different styles, many of which Salva admits to having soaked up during his childhood spent in ’80s Chicago, from electro, to hip-hop, to ghetto house. And while these influences can at first make the album sound slightly disjointed there is a coherence there that rewards repeated listens.

‘Beached’ starts the album on a hip-hop tip, combining samples of Japanese instruments and kids singing over an intricate and catchy rhythmical backbone. These influences are further explored on ‘Wake Ups’, with huge snares and bouncing basslines, ‘Icey’, with grinding synth melodies, and ‘Issey Miyake’, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Skratch Piklz tape from the early 2000s. This is contemporary hip-hop of the highest order, in line with the modern aesthetic of fellow West Coast producers Lazer Sword and the Glitch Mob, where bass and electronic influences are elegantly put to the forefront. And while it’s obviously best appreciated in a club on a big system, the music works just as effectively at home. Zackey Force Funk provides the album’s only vocal appearance on ’40 Karats’, one of the album’s mellower numbers, with his effected, sleazy vocals blending perfectly with seemingly G-funk inspired melodies.

‘Keys Open Doors’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’, a cover of Robert Owen’s Chicago house classic, lay out Salva’s debt to house music, with tinges of UK Funky peering through the intricate rhythmic patterns and melodies. The latter is one of the album’s highlights for me, a truly irresistible dancefloor number whose melodies were born to get stuck in your head and be hummed all day long.

The album closes on ‘Blue’, its lead single which combines hip-hop and bass music sensibilities with a melody that rivals ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ in terms of sheer catchiness and a drop that wouldn’t be out of place on the latest dubstep banger. Essentially alternating between both opposites, the track pulls off a sort of short attention span disorder approach in a truly remarkable way. Also included in the release are remixes from B. Bravo, Machinedrum, My Dry Wet Mess and Lando Kal, further cementing the release’s broad appeal and standing within a variety of modern scenes.

Despite Complex Housing‘s eclecticism, perhaps what’s showcased most here is Salva’s depth of production know-how – it’s clear that this is a man who has honed his craft over the years and learnt to leave nothing in a track that doesn’t belong there. All of which makes for a remarkable debut that, despite the fact we’re only a month weeks into the new year, is sure to be among many of 2011’s favourites come December and contribute to a fair amount of sweating on the dancefloor in the process. Where he goes next is going to be real interesting.

Laurent Fintoni

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