Review: Ewan Jansen – Aqua Libre – Red Ember Records
This October, Ewan Jansen made a long-awaited return to his elusive Red Ember Records with a new 4 track EP entitled ‘Aqua Libre’. Jansen has reignited the Perth imprint after a 15-year break, resuming the label’s timeless signature style during its era distributing coveted records between 1997-2001.
During the early days of Red Ember Records, the imprint had more than proved itself as an output years ahead of its time. The platform saw material from Andrew Carpenter, Justin Zerbst and the label owner himself; and each release was pressed onto sought-after, limited lathe cut records. The lathe pressing process meant the records were being produced by hand, exhibiting another indicator of the hard work and determination that was poured in to each Red Ember release to ensure it was a great record. Red Ember Records was launched with no expectations and no over-zealous hype: just Ewan Jansen and a few friends in a remote area of sleepy Perth.
The timeless nature of Jansen’s material is thanks to his routine use of analogue hardware production and classic US dance influences. His signature sound draws upon raw Detroit techno, dreamy new-age house and melodic electronica, although in some of his recent material there have been more and more hints of fuzzy lo-fi, offbeat jazz and hazy ambient. Earlier this year, Jansen released ‘Lost Embers’ on Brian Not Brian's burgeoning London imprint Going Good Records. The EP was made up of 6 unheard tracks taken from the Red Ember archives, but the Australian underground champion has now returned to his rightful home.
Red Ember’s records have become even harder to find these days, which has (of course) created a great deal of excitement around the new label release. This time though, the excitement is justified – ‘Aqua Libre’ is a stylish affair right from the first track.
Jansen inaugurates the package with title track ‘Aqua Libre’, ebbing things in blissfully with retro chords, hazy melodies and wonky lead notes. Up next is ‘Plankton’, a laid-back cut hinged together by loose drums, wistful pads and a catchy melody that will linger in your head all day. Opening up the flip is curiously named number ‘Freckles’ which lays the focus on a slightly darker atmosphere, weaving together intricate low-end sequences, hollow bongos and sparse breaks; before ‘Castel’ closes the package with majestic synth swells, rising bell clangs and muffled drum notes.
Although ‘Castel’ is a little easy to forget, the tracks on the ‘Aqua Libre’ EP are beautiful compositions marking the return of Red Ember with flair. The title track is a slice of new-age house as pioneered by various underground Australian labels today, but flecked with Jansen’s renowned classic-house influenced style. The two standouts of the EP are ‘Plankton’ and ‘Freckles’, both are nonchalant in nature; but extremely catchy and full of nature.
This EP will sell out fast, but we’ll be waiting in anticipation for more Red Ember Records.