Dam Mantle - WE EP

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2011-07-25

Following his excellent First Wave album, released at the start of this year, Glasgow's Tom Marshallsay, aka Dam Mantle, is back with this bleak and beautiful EP. Mostly taking a breather from the more dubstep and 2-step influenced beats and textures on his debut, WE instead consists of four long, sometimes multi-part pieces of music which feel at once classically ambient and thoroughly contemporary.

The opening title track is 10.34 of deep, luxuriant electronic bliss. It evolves from skeletal, hissing beats swaddled in chocolatey synth pads to an expansive, almost bucolic piece complete with church bells, warped chanting and acoustic strums. It recalls yesteryear chill-out room favourites such as The Orb, KLF, Tangerine Dream and even (gulp!) Enigma. And it's fantastic.

The brilliantly named 'Meet Me in the Ambulance', ups the tempo a little but otherwise feels very much like an extension of the title track, with the same vocal samples hovering around. 'Somnambulate, My Dear' adds skittish, high-pitched organ and some lovely 'ooh'ing vocals, all of which makes the track feel a little spiritual, but thankfully not in a icky Moby sort of way. Meanwhile, the clattering beats, together with what sounds like a heavily-treated slide guitar lend the tune a 'travelogue' feel, a sense of motion across a scene of ancient stillness.

Final track 'Not a Word' breaks with the atmosphere of the previous tunes, transporting us to a more urban, claustrophobic setting. It is the most dubstep influenced number, featuring a pitch-shifted, downbeat vocal very similar to those on James Blake's debut. The semi-intelligable lyrics about 'monsters' and the singer not knowing his own feet chime with the sparse but off-balance beats. It's simultaneously the most accessible and most forbidding track on the EP and the way Marshallsay exploits a feeling of emptiness, deploying a brief snippet of pouring water as a percussion effect, demonstrates his breath-taking skill as a producer.

WE feels like a leap forward for Marshallsay, but it's an unfussy one, widening his horizons while neatly sidestepping pretentiousness or self-indulgence. Nevertheless, its creator's skill and ambition are palpable forces throughout, and it's genuinely exciting to think where Dam Mantle might go next.

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