Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Read almost anything about Chicago-born, LA-based DJ Paul Salva and you’ll likely see a reference to the variety of styles that his music incorporates. His official biography explains that his music “promotes complexity through a synthesis of contrasting styles, showcasing dips into house motifs, grooves in smooth boogie funk, and massive roiling bass waves.” His Discogs entry notes how Salva “plays on inspiration found from Miami Bass, Chicago House, West Coast Funk and modern beat culture”. And in his review of Salva’s debut album ‘Complex Housing’, Pitchfork’s Nate Patrin describes how his music “shrugs off attempts to pin down its elusive origin point” before rattling off a list of disparate styles that can be identified in his music, ranging from purple to filter house.
“The five tracks that make up Salva’s club-primed ‘Odd Furniture’ EP run the gamut of genres, from trappy bass weight to juking repetition to inflections of b-more and rave.”
This mish-mash of stylistic influences seems less deliberate eclecticism and more the simple, inevitable product of the modern age – by having unprecedented access to so many different types of music nowadays, they’re all likely to creep into your own style. As such, the five tracks that make up Salva’s club-primed ‘Odd Furniture’ EP for Friends of Friends run the gamut of genres, from trappy bass weight to juking repetition to inflections of b-more and rave. Opening track Get A Life mixes old school house with fidgety breaks, ground that is similarly traversed on the ravey Rest In 3-Piece – the tracks fall somewhere between Trax Records in 1988 and Mad Decent in 2008, but Salva’s hybridisation makes it seem like days separate the two rather than decades. Hard Drive, meanwhile, flirts with footwork tempos in a way not too far removed from Machinedrum’s experiments, whilst EP teaser track Drop That B plays out like a slick update of DJ Funk. The tracks all take on a life of their own in Salva’s hands, bound by small production quirks (hip hop drum arrangements, the rap samples that crop up across the EP) and a generally non-conformist approach to sound design – how many other producers would litter a straightforward track like Drop That B with weird squeaking hydraulics?
With a deep pool of influences, many new artists struggle to find their own sound, often floating between different genres with each release – fellow San Francisco producers 5kinandbone5, for example, make music which is usually excellent in itself but which nevertheless lacks a signature sound that defines them (sometimes they make UK garage, sometimes stripped back house, sometimes booming hip hop) – but on the ‘Odd Furniture’ EP, Salva demonstrates that he is an artist who can tackle these sounds whilst remaining stylistically consistent and distinct throughout. This is what matters: for an otherwise unpretentious set of club tracks, it’s essential that there’s something of the artist themselves, rather than simple genre signifiers, that keep you coming back.