Ravished and ravishing,
This review is from: NYC Stuff & NYC Bags EP [12" VINYL] (Vinyl)
These days, if you've the merest hint of step or the mildest semblance of low-end to you then you're immediately thrown into the post-dubstep catchall - a loose genre that is still very much searching for its true identity. What a nice surprise then, after the disappointment of James "Boring" Blake's evolution into the spokesman for said movement, to find Vondelpark (traditionally a greenspace in Amsterdam) a couple of layers beneath his bloated form.
And, true to form, the NYC Stuff And NYC Bags EP isn't a direct descendent of dubstep, at least not the banging, nor dubbed-out ends of it. Instead, though some of their skipping beats do say otherwise, Vondelpark's bruised heart lies across the pond and with those making highly noteworthy stabs at spectral R&B and soul, such as obvious go-to comparison How To Dress Well.
It's news to no one to say that the vast majority of today's super-slick R&B can be summed us as fairly laughable exercises in braggadocio. Also, there'd be few that'd argue against the notion that somewhere down the line soul has simply lost its own. Now, it would appear that lovelorn, awkward, bedroom-bound teens such as Vondelpark's Lewis Rainsbury, Alex Bailey and Matt Law are taking them back underground.
Taking its cues from glitchy ambience, slo-mo beat makers and the same soft palette as the Gayngs collective and Destroyer's current incarnation, NYC Stuff And NYC Bags automatically seems distant in comparison to its predecessor the Sauna EP. Both are underpinned by sampling and Rainsbury's fragile vocal, yet gone is the reliance on 80s dark-wave and New Order. In its place, on opener "TV" for example, are summery loops and dreamy keys, pensive guitar reverb and hazy clicks, not to mention its organic vocal lifts that sit in rather than on top of the mix.
In another era, "Camels" might have been filed under landfill chill-out, coming to rest perhaps against the emaciated figure of Groove Armada, but drifting around on cut-and-paste soul and given a light stepping beat that hails from just North of the band's native Surrey allows for it to make a much stronger case for itself.
Whilst proceedings are drawn to a close by the intangible late-night comedown "Outro To NYC" and its crystalline beat, "Feat B" is, in turn, a smoky, hand-drummed jam that lolls from side to side beckoning in windblown snippets of vocal and 2011's ubiquitous touchstone the saxophone.
Completing the set, EP centrepiece "Hipbone" is a gorgeous offering comprised of minimal synth surges, as well as a near fully-formed and harmonised vocal repeat that suggests at an affinity with fellow R&B deconstructors Top Girls. Furthermore, its cool and roomy texture showcases a perfect finger-click overlay that gives proper backbone to its otherwise ethereal nature.
Whatever it isn't, NYC Stuff And NYC Bags is often quite remarkable. Its vulnerability is its appeal, and, along with but a handful of contemporaries, Vondelpark are bringing a refreshing honesty and sensitivity back to material that has elsewhere long since lost its head.
Advised downloads: "Hipbone" and "TV".