The Pacific Northwest, for all its virtue and damp, pine-studded beauty, isn’t particularly known for its rich dance music culture — not abroad at least. There is, nevertheless, an emergent thread of forward-thinking, dancefloor sculpting taking shape in Seattle, that takes its cues as much from the city’s rich culture of abstraction and experimentation as from the lean dogma of Berlin nightlife.
Oil Panes is a debut for both artist and label, and in this case the two are deeply intertwined. What began as a collective of discerning selectors throwing house parties in Tacoma has grown into a vanguard for Seattle’s blooming underground dance culture, and it’s metamorphosis into a label is the logical next step; giving voice as well as venue to the various talents and contributors that have made the collective so vital to the city. This stunning EP, from longtime member and Millsian record-slinger Fugal, gives a compelling glimpse of the shape of things to come.
There’s some very accomplished straight-up techno on here — as well as some beautiful aesthetics from farther out in the left of the proverbial field. The title track (and its accompanying remix from Semantica don Svreca) escalates rapidly, momentum building in the clattering percs and layered pads, culminating in an almost animalistic intensity that belies the relatively restrained aesthetic. These well-executed dynamics are similarly present in New Autonomy, another dancefloor-oriented tune replete with cavernous, synthetic ping-ponging and gated noise hi-hats. This track, however, also showcases the densely textural nature of this record. This is perhaps its most entrancing aspect and is prominently displayed in the brilliant opener, First Descent. This tune is ominous and immense, yet it refuses to give more than the sparsest hints to its true shape. It’s abyssal depth is unambiguous yet opaque, and we can only hope this sets the tone for what is to come from this fertile culture flourishing in the petri dish of the PNW.
Get the Oil Panes EP