While originally from Moscow and having been Brooklyn-based since 2009, it would be fair to say that much of the backbone of Slava’s sound is still rooted in Chicago, where he first found his musical feet. While all manner of interrelated references surface – deep house, US garage and occasionally an airy, spacious quality informed by cloud rap – it’s Chicago’s footwork-focused dancefloors that ultimately sit at the centre.
The album artwork for ‘Raw Solutions’, an image displaying an intermingling of the synthesised with the fleshy and raw, speaks to this LP’s more intriguing moments. The corporeality of the dancefloor – those base and instinctual desires that Chicago ‘floors have reached for tirelessly over the years – are reproduced in coded form, digitised and projected out in a slicker, re-animated form. But that album artwork and the title, ‘Raw Solutions’, also suggests a wish to scratch away at the outer layers and reach just for the beating heart at the middle. The issue, and one that surfaces on ‘Raw Solutions’, is that by distilling these elements down, it can be easy to end up with something that can feel overly familiar.
With some of this in mind, fans of Slava’s ‘Self Control’ EP from last year may have issues finding ways into ‘Raw Solutions’. On that EP, tracks like I’ve Got Feelings Too made superb use of thrusting bass beats and whispering, R&B-indebted voice: repeated endlessly to the point where you lose sight of whether these emotions are really human or programmed into an automaton. Whirlpool’s clattering, metallic beats could have made a comfortable fit with Night Slugs’ progressive contortions. Moving from this to Heartbroken, which references T2’s bassline calling card of the same name, lacks much of those complexities. Similar issues surface on Girls On Dick and How You Get That. Both have quirky, side-stepping shades that reach for rough-edged, down-on-the-‘floor atmospherics, but don’t quite always capture the bodily instincts of the ghetto house stylings they aim to emulate.
Many of the album’s strongest moments reveal Slava’s abilities to reconstitute his differing influences into a frenetic and unified whole. Opener Werk represents this instantly with endless punches and pounces, while Crazy Bout You, in a manner not dissimilar to DJ Rashad’s recent Let It Go, splices footwork and breakbeat with wonderfully obstreperous results. A possible standout comes with Girl Like Me, which picks up where the automated emotions of I’ve Got Feelings Too left off. Over layered beats stepping over each other for attention, the sampled line of “no you’ve never had it…” is manipulated and poked and prodded at endlessly as counterpointed synths sway serenely in the background.
At times you feel that ‘Raw Solutions’ would benefit from delving deeper into notions of a clash between the organic and android, the human and the computerised – which are revealed on the artwork for this LP and for ‘Self Control’, as well as the recent video for Werk. But its instinctual understanding of footwork, and all the fizzling energy that comes with that, is impossible to ignore. Ask me again whether I take issue with How You Get That when it’s dropped midset onto a hyped and heaving dancefloor, and I might have a slightly different answer for you.