4 out of 5
Label: Hypercolour Records
Produced by: Ed DMX
I know I’m probably bias toward Ed DMX, letting him “get away” with beats I might otherwise classify as too basic in other creators’ knob-twiddlin’ hands, but, like, no, that’s false: Ed DMX is a genius who’s been perfecting his sounds-simple-but-is-hard-to-do electronica over the course of decades, proving a deft hand at 80s club, 90s IDM, modern vgm-style tunes, and more, all while fiddling with a presumably growing pile of tools. Occasionally he maybe pushes down one avenue or another that isn’t to my taste, but you can always (quite literally) hear the dude’s penchant for crafting instantly catchy core beats; it’s rare that a DMX release doesn’t at least get my head bobbing for the majority of its runtime. And for the absolute insane output he produces, it’s ridiculous how high quality most of it is.
…Adding his 2021 long-player, Loose Gears, to that list. Erring toward a more head down, withdrawn style, Loose Gears’ 11 tracks still step over different mutations of that, going darker at key points – and quite experimental – but then also bursting out with funk and sprinkles of electro. There’s some really surprising stuff here, at least considering how much Ed loves his club tunes, with the kinda-sorta title track Loose Gear an all-time standout, moving in dark patches of muffled beats and produced with this delightful rawness. The album kicks off with a relative banger as well, Unconnected a good intro to the kind of muted style at work here, awash in badass percussion and the most subtle and brilliant of synth flourishes; Torpedo Tube and Solar Transit bring the aforementioned funk; Wetware could pass as some early 00s Rephlex moodiness, with creepy backmasked sounding synths; and closer Sounds Good is well-named, incorporating a nearly Bogdan Raczynski-esque vocal that gets warped as a lead-in to its epic buildup.
Here and there, tracks on Loose Gears can overstay their welcome, extending the beat for a minute too long without much else added to it, but even on those tracks you have core hooks to work off of, and generally some last-minute flashes of fun.
After running through the album a few times, although Ed does give us a long-player once (or twice!) a year or so, the stream of EPs he puts out makes me forget sometimes how good he is at sequencing this stuff, and composing songs and not just beats. I don’t know if I can claim that Loose Gears has a narrative, per se, but it does flow together beautifully, and even if a couple of tracks carry on a bit, the overall effect keeps you moving and pretty damn immersed from start to finish.