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Various Artists – Double Denim Vol. 1

"Double Denim Vol. 1"

Various Artists – Double Denim Vol. 1
21 October 2013, 14:30 Written by Laurence Day

Fashion’s most no-no faux pas or cutting edge trend? Whatever your stance on double denim, you can be sure that it turns heads quick enough to cause pretty severe whiplash; it’s risky, a gamble even, but if it pays off, be prepared to snap necks. For the London label Double Denim, these are all warmly welcomed connotations – the de rigueur sobriquet conjures many desirable visions. It’s pretty much a marketing department’s wet dream. Lexicology aside, the label has an impressive roster at the forefront of the sonic arts.

The label, founded in 2010 as a means of releasing 7” singles by Hari Ashurst and Jack Thomas – two avid new music bloggers – has grown to become one of the leading UK indie labels, purveying what Ashurst and Thomas describe as “pop music made by outsiders.” In reality, that’s not far-removed from their sounds. There’s lots of electronics, chichi pop noises and clicky drum machines; they’re the kind of Brooklynite diaspora that infects minds and hearts with an informed, au courant approach to the Top 40. Star Slinger, Outfit and teenage producer Amateur Best are all strings to Double Denim’s bow. Now, after three years of toil, they’re putting out a compilation – a musical meze, giving you a taster of what to expect and a feel for what they do.

The first dish in this tantalising tapas is the aforementioned Outfit (who in fact crop up three times, more so than any other artist on the 12-track LP). “Drakes”, from their debut EP Another Night’s Dreams Reach Earth Again, is a sprawling, distorted horror-flick effort draped in neo-funk bass and Thriller synths. It’s born for menacing discos and macabre dancefloors. It’s not the only track that promises to incite movement; bedroom producer Brolin, places his celestial robo-dance number “Reykjavik” (reworked by Peaking Lights) upon the sacrificial altar. Silence is as much a major player here as the instruments, with each beat and chord surrounded by desolation, giving it a sparse 4am feel; as the music wares on, a D’N’B strand weevils its way in, producing a future-garage type noise, not too distant from Disclosure.

It’s not all designed for dancing though. Brooklyn producer J£ZUS MILLION’s collab with pop wunderkind Charli XCX is included on the compilation. It does have certain elements that point towards a club vibe – throbbing bass, bountiful beats – but XCX’s maudlin hook (“Rhinestone roses for a rhinestone cowgirl/ I want to be the centre of your whole world,”) is sung with such dead-eyed sadness it’s more a revelation of nonchalance than anything else. Empress Ofs unique brand of hazy shoegaze-cum-electronica emits a distinct whiff of Cocteau Twins on “No Means No”, with the ethereal soprano vox and luscious harmonies layered like puff pastry. It’s a luxurious ballad, thick with golden textures and warm pads, that while features a hardy pulse, is destined for leisurely summer drives rather than sweaty dives.

This compilation showcases a breadth of stellar talent. Double Denim are a label with high-calibre artists, and instead of opting for the standard big hits on this anthology, they’ve gone with some more obscure choices and remixes, meaning that this is a beguiling CD for those previously familiar with the outputs as well as complete newcomers. It’s got a wide appeal, and a large proportion of listeners will find something to treasure here.

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