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The Yard Work Simulator

After offering a string of dreamy house releases over the past few years, Berliners Max Graef and Glenn Astro have collaborated on a Ninja Tune effort geared more towards late nights in city centre apartments than thronging dancefloors. Seemingly named after an obscure Simpsons reference, The Yark Work Simulator sounds, well, like a Ninja Tune record, complete with the usual thoughtful production and jazzy sensibilities.

Opening sketch 'Intro' could be a homage to the tape-splicing experiments of composer Pierre Schaeffer, updated with digital patterns and repetitions. Woozy keyboard textures preside on 'Money $ex Theme', named after the pair's startup label, which meanders here and there with no particular destination in mind.

At seven minutes, the title track sees sweeping synths pan across the mix and passes through several distinct phases before settling into its groove, as gloopy electronics lounge lazily over deliciously intricate drum programming. 'Flat Pete', the funkiest track here, is a hip hop cut-up jam in the vein of DJ Shadow, while 'China Nr. 04' sees the duo layer oscilating tones over a hiccuping beat, lending the tune a galloping rhythm.

It's possibly too low-key in parts. On some tracks, especially those that cross the five-minute mark, it can feel like Graef and Astro are phoning it in a bit. Others though, the 4/4 powered 'W313D' and the whirlwind of 'Magic Johnson', are bursting with so many ideas that the pair audibly struggle to fit them all in. There are no bangers here, but it's a rewarding home listen, with more detail surfacing on each repeat play.

Sam Gregory

by Now Then Manchester