I can still distinctly remember the first time I listened to “Hiromis Theme” — the middle of Winter, late afternoon, with the sun peeking through oppressive clouds. Although it feels slightly reductive to open this review with a hearkening back to one of the earlier works of Huerco S., each of his subsequent releases has played out a chapter of some abstract narrative that began, for me, on that day; while the mood may waver and the groove shift or disappear entirely, it’s been a curious journey at the periphery of dance and ambient music.
Railroad Blues essentially picks up where 2014’s A Verdigris Reader left off, and serves the evolving thread of Brian Leeds’s work suitably well. It’s always intriguing to bear witness to an artist whose palette and approach develop in unexpected ways from release to release yet maintain a consistent — and singular — voice throughout. Bar a handful of previous outliers, Railroad Blues contains some of Leeds’s longest tracks to date, and the breadth and pacing serves his gestures and groove nicely.
The clunking (vocoded?) clavs and glistening synths of opener “Rushing To Paradise” seem in perpetual ascension, gliding toward some ecstatic release that doesn’t eventuate in an expected climax, but leaves a stunned absence in its wake. On the other hand, the curiously-titled follower “Marais Des Cygnes” slides through a similar sound via a snaking bass line, inspiring a more placid, languid, pulse-centric track. The closer “Transit (See See Rider)” takes the most alluring elements of both and ties off the release with delicacy, if perhaps less mysteriously than one might hope.
Due to Leeds’s position as a (somewhat) anointed champion of “outsider house,” it would be all too easy for his productions to indulge in the most straightforward and gratifying of gritty, lo-fi house meanderings — not that there’s anything wrong with that in a general sense. In truth, Leeds’s pre-Railroad Blues music is indeed some of the most intriguing of that particular time and school of thought. But just how far those gestures inherent to lo-fi and meandering “dance” music can go has perhaps been taken to a logical endpoint — Madteo, Patricia. The Huerco S. of Colonial Patterns seemed intent on forging a singular and lasting perspective within a world all-too content to rest upon its musical language, and Railroad Blues serves as the perfect, inconspicuous slink away to a new creative locale.
01. Rushing To Paradise
02. Marais Des Cygnes
03. Transit (See See Rider)
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