Whitesquare – Peaks

Peaks, the latest addition to the 20/20 vision discography brims with some ineffable underlining tone in the context of a dance release. It’s something not as clearly defined as an intriguing technicality nor is it quite as abstract as feeling, but something from Whitesquare’s newest four-track EP hits a very particular nerve. It’s very much on trend with the essence of the tracks lying in the deeper end, but there’s something wistfully indifferent about the way the tracks flow. The short marimba-like synth that calls in the first few bars of Someone else is never in a hurry to jump that octave higher, while the kick only ever nudges the track along, rather than acting like a driving force. The melodies alongside the harmonic framework are pleasant without being over-bearing. There’s no catchy hook to really pick out, since the two-tone marimba is little more than percussive part, and the droning bass-line features the only big leaps in melodic variation. As a result the track sets the scene for music that wallows in the foreground, idly capturing the listener’s attention with inventive cues – like a processed amen break – without breaking the serenity of the moment the music instills.

The EP sees Whitesquare in a transitional phase alongside the label, and if this is the direction that we should expect from both, it makes a sincere impression. The usual crass associations with summer will naturally follow in its wake, but while there might be more focus on an informal melody in a track like About the past, it’s certainly only in the context of the other parts that it truly works in its subtle manner. In the shadow of many deep-house producers moving to the album format, it’s nice to hear an EP that makes a concerted effort in a sound that very rarely relies on the instantaneous DJ hit, but rather offers a rounded, digestible group of dance-floor tracks.

Peaks is not always too comfortable in its deep-house cloak however and often ventures into some uncharted territory in the form of Techno, taking elements of House outside of their comfort zone. Abraxas’ spasmodic Rhodes chord only makes an appearance in the most restraint manner in the guise of what is essentially a deep-tech track, but when it does, it takes the sound from the House annals and mutates it into something unfamiliar. There’s no insistent animations of a harmonic movement, just one chord creeping up on you, stripping all the joyous tones from the instrument, morphing it into some inconsistent industrial machine.

The sense of ingenuity that has always been with 20/20 through producers like Motor City Drum Ensemble is still very much accounted for on Peaks. In the light of the title track bringing everything to a close it only re-affirms this sentiment for me. Yet, if there is something particular that stands out in Whitesquares’ four-track release, some crucial element that defines its appeal… I am still none the wiser to it.