To review the work of an artist about which very little is known, based on a body of work consisting of four tracks is challenging - it completely takes away the prerogative to waffle through a few hundred words on their past and previous critical acclaim or disclaim. However it's a refreshing challenge, free from preconceptions from which to approach the music. The little background available on Debukas shows that he was a teenage pop star who took the Japanese charts by storm, signed to Grand Royal and hung out with the Beastie Boys, which makes it all the more remarkable that he is a relative unknown. A quick search for past material turns up some tribute videos and a thoroughly excellent remix of Wild Beasts’ ‘Hooting & Howling’.
The trend for producers of retro-electronic music wedding their beats with melodic vocals seems to be gaining ever more steam, with Caribou’s Swim last year and the recently rise of James Blake and Jamie Woon. Debukas, while not reaching the heady heights attained by Dan Snaith, also looks to the dance scene of the late Eighties and early Nineties, with resonances of Detroit techno in particular. The second and third tracks on Debukas001 - ‘Pointers’ and ‘Some Days’ - function definitively as the meat of this Debukas sandwich and err more towards the dance floor than either the EP’s opener or closer.
Introductory track ‘I Am Machinery’ starts things off slowly, with a sluggish and stoned beat amidst a haunting melodic background, before the vocals kick in with ambient twinkling notes flitting in and out. First impressions of the track leave much to be desired, as its lazy ambience fails to grab you immediately; however upon repeated listens it does become more palatable, albeit never threatening to elevate itself above being the weakest effort on the EP. As far as Debukas001 goes, things only get better.
‘Pointers’, er, points much more towards the dance floor, leaving the sweaty and knackered ambient chill out area far behind. Here the vocals are utilised in a more instrumental fashion, the looping of what seems to be the words “a purple apple”. Alongside this is a pumping Detroit track which will no doubt be gracing the decks of many a DJ for some time to come. His mastery over the sound, managing to maintain a driving 4/4 beat and bouncing techno bass line while at the same time managing to make the whole track gentle and soft-edged shows an appreciation of subtlety that is often missing when music of this nature is produced.
‘Some Days’ functions as the second and larger piece of dance meat and wastes no time in tearing into the fray – and is of the same ilk as ‘Pointers’, the difference being the vocals take more of a prominent role, and sounding like something from the late Nineties radio-friendly alternative scene and somehow despite this not sounding crap. Not quite as good as its predecessor, it nevertheless encapsulates the same timeless Detroit and Chicago sound which has served producers for so well for so long.
‘Set My Self on Fire’ brings the EP to a close and returns to the lazy stoned beat without delving too deep into ambient territory. The vocals this time are wrapped around delicious, warm and mellifluous synths, maintaining sounds that are strong yet delicate.
While ‘Pointers’ remains the only track which is going to be a dead-cert hit on the club scene, the EP in its entirety shows Debukas to be an excellent producer, and hints that there is a lot more to come from this talented individual.
7Alex Baker's Score