Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Harry 'Midland' Agius is a remarkably consistent producer (and, of course, DJ), whether making Paul Woolford-style bombs, stripped-down bass tunes or string-laden disco-house. So he's sticking his neck out with Akase, a project with vocalist Robbie Redway (and a helping hand from Ewan Pearson) that majors in slow-burning downtempo electronica.Midland's revealed a love of Radiohead in interviews, and there's a similar melancholy world-weariness about 'Graspers'. You can hear it in the brooding, dark two-step of 'Rust', a fine showcase for Redway's soaring, soulful voice.
The debut full-length by Akase is the result of several years' worth of collaboration from two longtime friends, as well as final touches by veteran dance music producer Ewan Pearson. Tech-house producer Midland lays down tracks which are detailed but don't get in the way of Robert Redway's melancholy, wistful vocals. The rhythms are a bit more uptempo than usual for this type of vocal-centric indie electronic act, but these are still clearly intended as properly structured songs rather than rhythmic cuts intended for the dancefloor.
Akase is the new collaborative project by UK house and techno mainstay Midland and vocalist Robbie Redway. The duo take their cues equally from brooding electronic rock and R&B, and Graspers, their first LP, has the makings of a crossover; it combines dense electronics with emotional vocals and presents both via accessible song structures.The record's strengths are the beats and instrumentals that underlie Redway's singing. Cleverly subtle polyrhythms and hook-driven synth work make the record a worthwhile listen, but unfortunately, Redway's vocals get in the way of these elements more often than they accentuate them.
Midland isn't the first among his peers to dabble with pop. Will Saul, who A&R'd this LP for !K7, released Getting Closer in 2013. George Fitzgerald, a regular on Saul's Aus label alongside Midland, followed last year with Fading Love. All three artists have made sprightly music for the dance floor, but their pop efforts are morose—not so much a journey into the charts as an exploration of ailing souls.
Fusing hooky pop with dance instrumentals is a technique employed by many a wannabe innovator, but few can have ever done so in such joy-sapping style. Akase, the new project from producer Harry Agius – who has previously issued a series of appealing house tracks as Midland – and vocalist Robbie Redway, appears to be an attempt to move beyond the dance world and into a more mainstream consciousness. While the pair clearly have a knack for churning out catchy vocal lines – the melodies of tracks such as Borderlines feel familiar from the very first listen – Redway’s vocals tend to slide into an ersatz soulful drone, and the polite percussion and soft but relentless bass buzz that trundle beneath can render the songs miserably airless.