Oliver Coates is an acclaimed contemporary cellist, and yet this album sounds like a fully-fledged modern electronic dance record. Believe it or not, almost every single sound on Upstepping was originally derived from Coates’ cello, who then applied an absolute ton of processing to make this club friendly set of experimental bangers. On Prah Recordings.
Vinyl LP £15.49 PRAH006
LP on Prah Recordings.
A friend of mine tried to start a blog called ‘Step Up’ about kool elektronik musik back in 2012 when everyone was starting a blog to unearth the latest Dauwd-ish anthem. It didn’t last long; some would say that he didn’t step up to the challenge. Haw. Anyway, Phil likes this, so I have to like it too to keep my job. My hands are tied here, detective.
Ol’ Coates is doing the opposite of said friend, though his latest album Upstepping is not just an album about him accepting a challenge in some laddy electronic musical gesture. It’s actually him reconfiguring the cello, his main instrument (classically trained, by the looks of things), in order to transform its timbres into those that fit more into the realm of shuffly electronic grooves. Sometimes his bowings are clear, such as the synth perc, cello and distortion jam of ‘Bambi 2046’, at others they’re chopped into tiny fragments and processed til they’re garagey house music (‘Timelapse (Walrus)’). Or crushing doom, as the latter half of ‘Bambi 2046’ proves. And the second half gets into some seriously surreal territory, even a mad experimental bit of audio performance art by track 6. Who is this guy?!
Despite the occasional doom romp, Coates mostly keeps this in the realms of Burial/Four Tet, with ramshackle, clacky 2-step percussion and 4x4 kicks propelling Upstepping along at club-ready pace. It feels more colourful than those two though, augmented by more elaborate arrangements including sparser use of chopped vocals (the ‘Tet would cry) and strings galore. Maybe it’s just the lurking wood of the violoncello underneath it all, I dunno. Basically, this is the album that a cello-toting Jamie XX dreamt of making before he woke up halfway up his arse.
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- Upstepping by Oliver Coates
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