Friday 1 December 2017


JAAAAAA. The first big chords of producer Loom's London Ambient EP bristle with drama. The complexity of them and the progression as the opening track 'Heavy Glow' soars onward. The space between the chords and the robust sub that drops depth charges in these ambient moments. The orchestral clarity of the sampled violin hits versus the twangs of metallic synth that play syncopated melodies ending each phrase in a series of satisfyingly jarring triplets. The darkness and distortion of it. And the thing is that it feels like late-night London, the looming exterior of a club on an empty orange-lit street, and the slow-motion crowd of its interior; the camera turns slowly on its axis. It is the prelude to the three juddering tracks that follow.

First up: 'Aacccid', a track true to its name, featuring the overdriven booming kicks and handclaps that conjure warehouse dancefloors, distant smoke machine times, the vomit of strobes, the uptempo rave counterpart of house music that was born and nurtured in the UK. But over the top, in place of the squeegee elastic synths typical of this '90s style, there are clarion clusters of synth boops that cut the air glacially, less soft fizzy Refresher bar and more hardboiled tang of a melody pop; rave cymbals crash.

A slosh of crushing handclaps is the abrasive punctuation of aptly 'Dog In The Fight', combined with plasma kicks and a constant gloop anti-groove of sub-bass that gives it this urban swamp sort of feel. Beginning like an unaccompanied grime instrumental the track morphs into a UK funky sort of rhythm, complete with wobbling wah-wah synths, something closer to the acid that gives the previous track its title, a retro sound; one of the things that characterises London Ambient as a whole, these sounds of yore, a motif extracted not from nostalgia but from objective heritage and contemporaneous revivalism in electronic dance music.

Raving breakbeats thud and thump at the heart of 'Saturday Job At Laser Quest', part throwback dancefloor destiny and part heart-thumping excitement and fear of a laser quest party. The middle section is tense, poised, all the smell of the smoke machines and the strobing lights and the heavy laser gun in hand. Slimy synths drip-drop all over this one, a biohazard sort of sludge that gives this track a wonderfully dark edge to its retro-facing beats.

But ending as it began, beatless and textured, London Ambient bows out with 'Forever', a postscript to everything that's gone before. It's a touching swansong of crunched rumbling synth that fizzes with crackling decay and chugs along with a flanger effect, decorated with zipping little plasma synths resonating like echoes of the synths from the previous track in a cosmic void, chirruping like alien animals calling out to each other, and bitcrushed little trinkets. A simple melody plays on glossy blooping synth, melancholy and heartbroken but innocent in its melody, something human and emotive above the harsh electronics, the contrast of glassy clarity and the drone of the bass below, humans doing what they can in the murk of reality. A robotic voice wheezes the word "Forever…" The lights come on, the music stops, everybody has to go home.

London Ambient is both fantasy and reality, cinematic and observational, pushing forward but with a reverence to the sounds of the past. Crucially, atmospheric drops abound—even from looking at the waveforms as the tracks play on SoundCloud you can tell this. It's another relic of the past – another motif for Loom in this instance – taken carefully from the UK's earliest love affair with dance and a trope of the collection of genres that make up "rave"; the beat falls away and there is this ambient void in which sweat-jewelled dancers sway and eyes-half-open leaning on each other, an almost motionless vacuum; a chance to breathe, let the music sink in, feel. And that is London Ambient.

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