Cardiff resident Culprit One is the rising cream on a demitasse of electronica, in a city that continues to hold her rowdy bands the closest to her chest. James Hannam, the man behind operations, has been described elsewhere as the Welsh DJ Shadow, but that alone doesn't adequately explain a seriously developing fan base on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the course of four singles and a clutch of remixes, including The Automatic's 'Monster', Hannam has forged a highly personal style. Beats flex with finely pointed keyboard work that loves to travel in curious ways, and his arrangements are accessible, albeit rooted in the avant-garde and spliced to a flowing indie bloodline. To this expanding formula comes vocals from an unexpected source for this EP's title track. Sarah Howells fronts gentle Welsh band Halflight, who blend fragile bout a soufflé acoustic with indie. Here, Howells retains and builds upon her melting, breathy heartbreak delivery that, twinned with the man's sharp chemistry of sampled and fresh layerings, bursts like a sonic waterfall with all the shock and thrill of icy cascades. It took a little while to unwrap this beauty, but now my flesh stands to a tingle each time I immerse.
'Berliner' is a powerful piece of work which relies more heavily on decisive and swirling beats, and the whole vision becomes all the more luscious when third track/coda, 'Strings Outro', stalls the impetus with almost Vaughan Williams ease and proportion. Intense production values give all three tracks a whole city of depth. Go take a walk and feel the air; choose an apartment and catch the sough of a plane between the blocks high above you.
How fabulous - a smart and deeply exciting dance-floor magnet.
9Jane Oriel's Score