Morris Cowan – ‘Circa’ (Album Review)
Morris Cowan – ‘Circa’
Manchester-based producer Morris Cowan (real name Adam Taylor) has been busy recently. A slew of remixes for such artists as Ryan Davis and Thomas Bjerring, as well as releasing a few tracks of his own through Super Recordings (the moody, shimmering ‘CMB’ immediately springs to mind) has kept the prolific beat smith occupied while awaiting the release of his full-length debut, Circa. Despite the eventful schedule, Cowan, has still found time to contribute to a split EP with kindred spirit Joseki (last month’s Functions), alongside keeping up his role as a core member of industrious Nottingham collective Wigflex.
Cowan, real name Adam Taylor, began his musical education with the guitar, writing ambitious post-rock instrumentals through his teens – a definitive grounding in the expansive compositional style that shines through on Circa – and now finds himself among the select group of minimal techno producers that can successfully transform the single track release format into a considered and fluid long player. Opener ‘Cavern Jive’ is a perfect example of this ability; a sprawling mass of bouncing kicks and incessant melodies that float in and out of consciousness with a cautious sense of optimism, one that recalls German duo Mouse on Mars at their most creatively uplifting. The triplet swing of ‘Hasten Chimera’ provides an early highlight as well as one of the album’s catchiest melodies, while the heavy breathed compression of ‘Conflate’ sucks up each beat and deposits them back in a shower of white noise and synths.
Much of the ingenuity on Circa lies in-between the rigid structure of the four-to-the-floor beats – rhythms that in themselves are as polymorphic as that which sits atop them. Melodies mutate over unpredictable yet oddly natural harmonic progressions, and Cowan consistently demonstrates a maturity of composition and arrangement, not afraid to touch on the work of modern classicists such as Satie and Ravel alongside the more contemporary techno styles extolled by the likes of Isolée.
The thoughtful poise of ‘Desire Lines’ provides the nearest Circa comes to a respite, the tone slightly more relaxed, yet somehow all the more euphoric for it. It is perhaps fitting that Circa finds a home on Cologne label Zaubernuss; an imprint described by its creators Riley Reinhold and Jacqueline Klein as an “expressive” and “emotional” outlet for from their various other club-based ventures. That said, ‘Magnetor’ is a riotous flurry of beeps and blips, sawtooths synths and impactful kicks, all housed within Cowan’s mastery of organised chaos; a track born from the clubs of Berlin. ‘Elixir’ displays the muted character of ambient masters ISAN, with dry, sharp clicks of rhythm splintering through low-pass filtered synths. A use of bell-like tonalities is reminiscent of Pantha du Prince, another heavyweight of the genus. ‘Flutterby’ finds Circa ending in the same mood as it began: keen and capable with more than a touch of positivity about it; refusing to relent.
Cowan’s production is not a series of interconnected loops, more a realised concept of the bigger picture; a series of flowing compositions that develop further layers of interest as they progress. The highs and lows, builds and drops of the dance floor are here, but are augmented by genuine substance – music for both brain and feet, a real triumph.
Hear Morris Cowan at his Soundcloud HERE
Circa is out March 16th on Zaubernuss