Ben Watt straddles a few worlds; comfy singer songwriter, 80's reluctant pop star, writer and curator of house type record label. At least two of these worlds collide here on this double 12" of re-works of songs off his recent 'Kendra' album by Charles Webster and Ewan Pearson turning them into deep house throbathons with some balearic house meshed in.
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- Golden Ratio EP by Ben Watt
6/10 Robin Staff review, 25 November 2014
This is unfamiliar. Ben Watt’s “Golden Ratio” was a standard fare folk song, long ago, kissed off with the kind of incidental jazz influence that permeates the work of Jason Mraz, Sting and even Bill Callahan. It sounded sublime: Watt carried the song in his hands like it was an empty, weightless box, his voice smooth and fearless, his guitar strums going back and forth like a windshield wiper taking away light raindrops. Watt’s been chilled out to the point of excess most of his career, but “Golden Ratio” is a truly contended folk song: not sad, just soft.
The ‘Golden Ratio’ EP that follows feels something like sacrilege, as a result -- these remixes take the song out of its sleepy context and inject it with the tenacity and forcefulness of deep house. Watt is no longer the centre of these works, and his vision only remains in remnants; elements of the song’s vibe are left behind, but the artists he’s invited along try and create a party around them. Charles Webster’s first rework of the song keeps its homeliness in mind, with foggy textures that keep its feeling of secrecy alive -- but he beats click and glitch, and the synth drives ever onward, leaving behind an anonymous dancefloor jam that can exist for anyone, rather than as a one on one between Watt and his listener. Webster’s dub remix does much the same thing, with starker beats, nicely layered whirrs and slick guitar riffs that feel subliminal in the mix.
If you didn’t know this was all fashioned after Watt’s work, you’d think this was just another day, Webster cutting more eclectic house out on 12” for those with fastened heartbeats and rhythmic dietary requirements. The same goes for Ewan Pearson’s reworks of “Nathaniel”, which feel too loopy and bombastic (upended with that overwhelmingly strong drumbeat) to work. The most startling work here is in Webster’s third rework, which merely articulates Watt’s folk song, expanding the acoustics of the room and adding jazzy sparkle with quick guitar motifs -- it feels like he’s giving it just a tiny hint of seductive force, lowering Watt’s eyelids a little. Webster goes in for big gestures, for the most part, but his modest refinement of “Golden Ratio” comes off the winner.
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