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Girl Unit - Club Rez

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Artist: Girl Unit

Album: Club Rez

Label: Night Slugs

Review date: May. 21, 2012

Two years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a dance track more sought after than Girl Unit’s “Wut.” Philip Gamble’s track exists at an extraordinary intersection of influences, exhausted 1980s revivalism reinvigorated by rave, dubstep, the best Dipset beats and Lex Luger trap anthems, and a handful of prime grime cuts. Coupled with the “future bass” thinkpieces and features gathering around London’s Night Slugs immediately in its wake, “Wut” is arguably the defining moment of the label’s existence and a fork in the road for maximalist reactionaries currently ruling the roost.

We could talk endlessly about “Wut,” of course, but it’s had plenty of time to gestate into a given – dropping it in a set will cause a few sets of eyes to roll and doesn’t really present the risk (or reward) that it once did. Though Gamble is well aware of how important that song is for him, he’s also considerate of repeating former glories and mindful of flooding the market with Girl Unit mixes or remixes of deteriorating quality. So, technically, Club Rez is his first official release since the “Wut” single.

True to form, he’s going in a slightly different direction with his latest material. There’s a little DāM-FunK in the robotic funk of the first two and a quarter minutes of “Ensemble (Club Mix)” before a breezy siren synthesizer delivers an emotional injection. “Cake Boss” also starts out coldly, militantly even, a hard-hitting metallic snare riding a juke rhythm for the duration of its four-plus minutes.

But this is also where you start to see Gamble thinking beyond the song. “Plaza” follows “Cake Boss” as a less oppressive, more approachable tune that sounds like a club mix even in its original form. “Double Take” is even easier to like, changing from a reverb-heavy half-speed rhythmic pastiche to a stuttering synth phased in and out of a completely different melody in the last minute. Like the others, this coda is a nice set-up to what follows, so that skipping synth reappears at the beginning of “Rezday” in slightly altered form.

It’s the flow of these songs that remains Girl Unit’s biggest development. He can make tracks (though he doesn’t release them very often), but listening to him demonstrate his understanding of how they fit together and how each informs the next is really something. To that end, the most interesting moments are the endings, and the most interesting song on a whole is the title-track that concludes the EP. “Club Rez” is unique in this lot for its modest percussion – you’re not overwhelmed with 808 claps or distracting juke polyrhythms or inhuman hi-hats. It never releases the tension that Gamble spends the EP building up; instead, it’s that familiar grandness of the synthesizers that serves as comedown. No wonder the album takes its name from this particular song and not the others.

“I suppose my overall aesthetic though is … like a reinterpretation of popular styles,” Gamble explained recently. Far from being merely derivative, Girl Unit is a translator of languages. He hears Timbaland and Drexciya and The Heatmakerz and DJ Rashad and repurposes it for the benefit of the English ear. It was revelatory that he already knew what he was doing before Club Rez, better still that he’s made smoothing out the edges such an exciting proposition.

By Patrick Masterson

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