Brooklin’s artist Daniel Martin-McCormick is back after a year hiatus under his moniker Relaxer with Coconut Grove, a beautiful double EP comprising of 9 tracks navigating between Ambient and melodic Techno. The album, to be released on Los Angeles' Avenue 66 - a sub label of Acid Test which featured, among others, a few EPs by Joey Anderson - is not the first one of McCormick as Relaxer, who is however definitely better known to most people as Ital.
With Coconut Grove, McCormick touches new heights while maintaining a certain integrity to his signature sound: a constant flux between deep and emotional ambient soundscapes and simple but no nonsense dub techno, with a modern, breaky touch at times. Developed in solitude over the course of one year during sleepless nights at home, the album feels however much more personal and emotional than most of his previous works.
This production process reflects heavily on the final product, giving a nocturnal feeling to the whole release. Most tracks follow a similar pattern: a turbulent opening, usually relying on gritty nightmarish drones, basslines that sound more agitated than usual, only to leave space towards the end to lighter visions provided by classy ambient melodies and light arpeggios, similar to a sunny dawn after a long stormy night.
Perfect example of this can be found directly in Serpent in the Garden, the opening track, in my honest opinion a little masterpiece in itself. In almost 10 minutes, the artist elegantly navigates from a gritty drone with alien sounding vocals to a punchy bassline which then unfolds into melancholic and epic melody. At a first listen, I felt like he didn’t manage to keep the plot together with this one, and that there was material for two tracks, but after a second one, all the pieces came back together, and everything made sense.
Fluorescence is a beautifully executed ambient track, with a more natural touch: marine and airy soundscapes intertwine organically, only to leave space to an organ-like synth giving it a more deep and austere touch towards the end. The B side opens Cold Green, by far my least favourite: a slow melodic techno tune which finds in the melodic techno of 2014/2015 its main reference, feels a bit uninspired and doesn’t leave quite the same mark as the first two. Change in aesthetic? Maybe.
Born from beyond is more rhythmic, with fine minimal inspired sounds adding to the composition. The vocal repeating obsessively in the background gives a sense of menacing incumbency, only to open up in the second half more serene visions.
However, the night feeling that encompasses the whole release finds its peak in Steepchase. The track sounds like a walk into a dreamy forest at night, that culminates in a rise of dreadly emotions in the last minute with a loop that gives a sense of sinister incumbency, before the sun rises and sets all the weird-looking dark figures back in place. Probably my favourite. Um comes a bit as a surprise, shaking off the numbness of Steepchase with a turbulent broken bassline, making it the first dance floor breaker of the album. Breaking the waves continues on this same path, eventhough with more organic melodies found elsewhere, paving the way for the grand finale of the D side. The second last track, Agony is another evocative slow paced ambient tune, with a weak baseline reminding of a heartbeat, which confers to it a slightly nostalgy-like touch. Perfect tune to indulge in that seemingly unjustified melancholia you get before bed time.
Finally, with Finally Forgetting, the artist seems to wake up and pulls out off the cylinder a melancholic and powerful 130 bpm ambient techno tool. The simpler structure doesn’t lean towards the repenting mood swings found elsewhere in this album, making it the most versatile DJ tool. With this one, Relaxer manages to keep faithful to the refined and detailed aesthetic that comprises the whole releases with a fine transition from a percussive workout towards more atmospheric melodies with a rare and masterful organic touch.
Overall, by merging different sides of his artistic self, with Coconut Grove McCormick leaves a positive impression and creates an interesting entry point to explore his discography. You won’t be deluded either if you came here for its ambient or dance floor side, the one elevating the other, leaving you with a bittersweet sense of tormented optimism.
Relaxer - Coconut Grove (Avenue 66)
Out 18.10 on 2x12" and digital.