I’m probably a little bit sheltered, but this mini album from Power Moves is the first time I’ve heard an Australian artist engage with juke/footwork music across an entire release (as opposed to single tracks). With that in mind, it’s also great to hear it approached with an outsider’s freshness. Rather than the usual liquid flutter of abstract digital soul, Power Moves brings a much grainier aesthetic to bear. Built largely on wonky samples, individual elements are minimal but the hisses and static of those samples fill out the sound field to give a surprising amount of density. Power Moves is a project of Austin Buckett, of whom I’d only ever previously heard quite beautiful abstract, piano driven ambient work, so this release came as somewhat of a surprise, though that probably also explains the freshness he brings.
Beautifully produced, from the (largely sampled) hi-hat runs to booming sub-bass rhythm drones, that sound field is used to its maximum impact. Rhythms are explored – sometimes a simple boom-thwack frames the triplet time hats. Other times, such as the standout, ‘Clockin”, the actual time signature is virtually impossible to pick. And, as rhythm music, it ultimately lives and dies on its ability to inspire body movement. I’d love to hear it on a large P.A. because, on headphones or loungeroom stereo, it’s already succeeding in doing just that, even at its most abstract moments. The pulls between half and double time that one would expect are present and there’s great variety in how he manages to vary the tempos beyond the usual narrow parameters to which electronic producers often confine themselves. The other standout rhythmic trick is the layering of almost found sound/field recording quality rhythms, used in street parades and the like, with contrasting electronic gloop. This is put to best effect in the opening ‘Holla’ and the later ‘Gorlitzer’.
If I could criticise one thing, it’s the sense of cultural detachment that comes about via the use of fairly clichÃ©d voices sampled from acapellas, TV and film. It’s feels disappointing that, in exploring another culture’s music with fresh ears to create an original sonic environment, Power Moves resorts to populating that with generic American accents. In Buckett’s defense, he has spent time in New York recently but, still, it feels like a missed opportunity to me. It would have been truly great to hear music such as this localised completely. It’s not a big enough issue to undermine my enjoyment of the tracks, however. And it does leave me wanting more, keen to hear if he can continue to develop this strand of his music into something that is completely his own.