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Newmark Phase

Released: 24 September 2012
Newmark Phase

Central Processing Unit is a new Sheffield label that is looking to create quite an impression. With branding by designers who helped carve another certain Sheffield electronic label's visual identity a couple of decades ago, their first release certainly looked impressive when it dropped into my hands. Thankfully the music is of an equally high quality.

Dallas-based Cygnus' Newmark Phase is a varied journey through B-Boy electro, techno and electronica that wouldn't have been out of place on the books of Warp in the 90s - full of lush synth melodies, electric percussion and the crackly textures of analogue gear being pushed to its limits. But this is not a backwards facing album, and a great deal here has been informed by more modern electronic dance music too.

Opener 'Atari Lovers' is a case in point - a dizzying, detuned dub techno synth line whirring progressively over a restrained plodding thud. It is for that very reason hypnotic and moody, with an overall sound that wouldn't be out of place amongst Delsin's current catalogue. This all changes with second track 'Bedroom Activities', which works waves of warm synth strings through saccharine peaks and troughs over a razor sharp bass line and heavy 808 breakbeats whilst playful melodies dance around in the higher frequencies.

'Biosoft' has slightly more of the aforementioned retro influences, with an initially pleasing synth melody getting gradually layered up into chords that sit awkwardly in the grey area between discordance and harmony. There are overtones of Autechre here, and a bizarre vocal line that is reminiscent of 'Beetles' on the Richard D. James album. The following two tracks retain the emotive harmonic sensibilities of those early Warp influences, but throw a handful of electro and Detroit grooviness into the mixing pot, with a Drexicyan level of swagger emerging in the rhythms and crunchy bass.

Other highlights include the title track, which like many here carries a sense of linear narrative that is refreshing in a genre which these days often hints at formal symmetry. Weird and wonderful synths hint at a theme for a full five minutes before the main rhythmic body of the song emerges and the filters are opened up on the melodic elements, switching us from a soft sound into a harsh one and back again with impressive confidence.

You can probably see a trend of influences running through this review, and it is true that Cygnus isn't doing anything particularly pioneering with this album. However, the quality of those influences and his skills in creating a sound evocative of them, combined with the fact that the album is so rich with fresh melodies, mean that this is far more than just a rehashing of ideas. It is a proper LP, with a sense of overall continuity well expressed despite the variety of styles touched upon. Despite its Dallas origin, it is a very appropriate release for a new Sheffield label, with a keen sense of the city's musical past pulsing through it all.