The imprint Extended Play describes itself as “A base for Belfast electronics.” When veteran DJ / producer, Timmy Stewart, sent me their then latest emission, Eighty Five (Eighty Six has now just been released), I`ll admit that they were new to me, and that the music was not what I was expecting at all. Given Timmy’s history, helping to shape the city’s house and techno scene, and his recent dance-floor remixes for Italian label, Hell Yeah!, I thought I was in for some big room bangers. Instead this is an hour-long showcase-like set, suite even, of elegant ambience, put together by folks ploughing their furrow through Northern Ireland`s underground. Individual artists whose “vision” and oeuvre overlaps, and here, at least, seamlessly intertwines.
Some examples focus on field recordings. Stretching the usual birdsong, turning tides, ripples and splashes, into serene tone poem floats. Superior symphonic spinning, spiraling swells of sublime sonic shimmer. In the main, euphoric, modular modern classical gear. A glacial guitar graces Seaplanes serene Satellite. On The Vendetta Suite`s Lagan Bubbles, I`m sure that amidst the dogs barking, you can hear fishing lines being cast.
Others fashion flickering fragments, gleeful glitches, into lithe, lyrical, labyrinths, machined musical mazes. SPDPK`s Valley, for example, is an otherworldly whirl of pretty Wurlitzer organ. The Fully Automatic Model`s sci-fi sirens of frequency feedback cut through like spotlights searching Blade Runner`s L.A. night sky. Any drums, or percussion, though, is dimmed, racing, but rattling away off in the distance. Tabb`s New Daisy takes the tender techno template of John Beltran`s Ten Days Of Blue, and reduces that record`s ringing rhythms even further, rendering them mere whispers and suggestions. The bleeps of This Ship Argo`s You Can`t Take It Back bounce off one another, gently, in organic Brownian motion, backing very human multi-tracked folk harmonies. Timmy’s own contribution, working with fellow traveller, Iain McCready, couples spoken narration, stories of sound system sound checks, with an LFO rumble. The recollections, reflections, of rave, recalling the mix of hip hop, house, and breaks, the highs, the sheer excitement, anticipation of putting the kit through its paces, while waiting for the party to start, are awash with abstract atmospherics, accurately, authentically, mimicking the thick fog of memory.
Extended Delay`s Eighty Five is out now, on Extended Play.