It’s becoming easier to tell just what an indelible mark The xx have left on the UK music. Since their Mercury Prize winning debut album was released and littered around adverts, TV shows anywhere with some form of radio reception, it seems our national acceptance of their darkened, electronic pop has seen a flurry of similar suitors abound – not to mention the trio’s beat maestro branching out on his own dance music mission.
Whilst they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, you’d be hard pressed to argue their influence now, especially on listening to the trio of Lewis Rainsbury, Alex Bailey Law – aka Vondelpark. Their debut EP, Sauna, found them filtering a love of 90s dance beats and off kilter vocals into something that sat as both alienating and embracing at the same time. However, it seems that the time spent edging off the buzz radar, as well as helping out their musical kinsmen Will Archer (aka Slime), has benefitted them no end in finding a sound far more befitting their obviously emotional aural backdrops, with the five tracks on NYC Stuff.. proving to profit from a far less challenging set of sounds.
As the colliding strings, bass and synths of ‘TV’ open everything up to thrillingly off-kilter beat, it’s clear that the trio have found a calming comfort in their once abrasive sound. Those aforementioned xx comparisons may abound, but Vondelpark have sketched around that template as opposed to replicating it, allowing them to shade the edges with more romantic and altogether brighter tones. Where ‘TV’ shuttles along through on its sharp percussive edge, follow up ‘Feat B’ brings things to a far more sensual landcape, welding sultry vocal samples and Santana-like drum pats as if to imply that they are just as happy playing around with the smooth jazz of a cruise ship decadence as they are with gothic dens.
It’s once the influence of cohort Slime becomes abundantly clear come the introduction of ‘Camels’ that mixed feelings appear. ‘Camels’ could so easily fit onto Archer’s recent ‘Increases’ EP, and this is by no means a bad thing. To have the pair making such potently thought-out music is a blessing. Unfortunately, it was bound to have an effect on one of them. The duo of ‘Camels’ and ‘Outro 4 NYC’ could, and maybe should, have bookended this undeniably exciting EP perfectly. Unfortunately, final track ‘Hipbone’ proves a reminder that the trio are still finding their feet more than having them confidently planted, like they should. It’s slowed-down bounce and, at points, dischordant melodies stand out like a sudden blemish on an otherwise immaculate surface.
It may be an unfortunate tarnish, but is only as potent as it is due to the length of the EP itself. There’s no doubting that Vondelpark warrant the praise thrown their way, even on the basis of the hand full of tracks that have emerged in their short lifetime. It just all still feels like a teaser more than the finished product. Categorisations and scenes will inevitably be tossed aside when, and not if, they themselves feel and act as complete as they can.