[sic] Magazine

Loess – Burrows

The New Jersey-based duo of Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman have been recording as Loess for nearly a decade now. Burrows is one of those mop-up releases that gathers together some remixes and hard-to-find cuts together with a mini album’s worth of previously unreleased material.

The duo are obviously fans of Artificial Intelligence era Warp, and the influence of the likes of Boards of Canada, the Black Dog, Bola and their ilk are heavily evident. The album runs for a generous / patience testing (depending on your point of view) 78 and a bit minutes. The tracks aren’t arranged in chronological order, so it’s difficult to get any sense of how their music has developed over the years. It’s taken a fair number of listens for the music to reveal itself. The first few suggested an act too beholden to its influences, enjoyable as the music is. Gradually, though, Loess’ own personality began to emerge.

There’s no crap on Burrows, but the tunes that stick in the mind are broadly speaking more recent. New tracks “Fascine” and “Selkuth” are among the best. The former is a brief snatch of ringing dub, whilst the latter is a long, snaking and mellifluous piece of melancholia. The Quench remix of “Bud” is a striking heavy dub piece that could point to a new dubstep influenced direction in future.

To be fair, even the tracks that kneel before the masters of the genre are often as good as the acts that they pay homage to. Both “Spetaelska” and “Nomon” could have been sneaked on to Autechre’s Amber without any drop of quality. Perhaps it’s totally unfair that electronic acts are expected to continually push the envelope while their guitar playing peers are lauded for continually recycling the same old rock clichés. Select a couple of bars at random on this album and you’ll find more original ideas than whoever the latest indie darlings are this week will manage in their (probably very short) career.

Initially I was underwhelmed by Burrows. But I get more whelmed each time I play it. I don’t expect that my whelm capacity will be exceeded, but it’s an album that is far more consistent and enjoyable than a bag of stray tracks can honestly be expected to be.