Review: Taso – New Start
New Start, the third release on the Teklife label following material from DJ Earl and the late DJ Rashad, comes courtesy of Bay Area producer Taso. A multi-instrumentalist with a degree in audio engineering, his music is saturated with the sound of Chicago footwork but draws strongly from a whole range of musical styles, all hurled into blistering 160 BPM.
Coming off the back of his most recent project – eight whole volumes of the Cold Heat EP series released over the course of 2016 – New Start is a mix of “unreleased classics” and brand new material. As always, it’s a collaborative affair, with contributions from many members of the extended Teklife family making for a varied listen throughout.
While DJ Earl's recent Open Your Eyes focused on pushing footwork into strange, adventurous new shapes, New Start is more interested in the sheer expressive possibilities of texture and rhythm, both of which Taso demonstrates an effortless mastery of.
Pretty much every track here is top tier. Chief among these is a pair of collaborations with Spinn and Rashad. In particular, the title track is an instant footwork anthem, with its refrain of “You left me broken hearted” laid over throbbing synths and a flurry of drums. Rashad’s presence is especially strong – lush and lovesick, it would have fit in wonderfully on his own Rollin’ EP, although the vocal sample now seems particularly poignant after his passing.
Then there’s the breezy ‘AM Track’ which juggles a lot of moving parts and mostly succeeds at keeping everything from falling apart, although the mix does feel a little overcrowded. The Salva remix tacked on the end of the record fixes this to an extent, but still feels a little superfluous as it fails to do anything different with the source material. DJ Earl collab 'Da Capo Al Coda' is the closest thing to a throwaway, as it just lacks the kineticism of the superior material.
Personally my favourite cut is ‘Bussin’ – even more blissed out than ‘New Start’, both tracks share that divine weightless feeling of the very best liquid DnB. Here, far out synths and delicate harp flourishes contrast with jungle-style breaks. While 'Bussin' draws lightly from UK rave sounds, ‘Murda Bass’ is more explicit in its lifting – the only Taso solo joint on the record, its throbbing bass pulses and stalking hi-hats hark back to the heady heights of dubstep.
Taso’s Bay Area roots show through on ‘In The Green Room’ with menacing bass, icy cold synths and screwed down vocals reminding us of the important role hip-hop plays as footwork source material (it should be noted that artists such as Danny Brown and Chance the Rapper are making moves to turn this one-way traffic into a dialogue). ‘Don’t Get Mad’ is similarly stripped down, but this one is pure Chicago – a high velocity ‘Don’t hate the playa’ type battle track with a boastful vocal from Gant-Man (“She said she had a man but he act like a goof/ she said she coming home with me so now I’m telling you").
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the record's brevity works to its strength. Touching on numerous different facets and introducing some new ones, it seems destined to be a keeper when people look back to this point in time. Not simply the strongest release on Teklife so far, Next Life is one of the best footwork records to date, and the closest thing to a mission statement for the genre since Rashad’s Double Cup.
New Start is out now on Teklife, grab a copy right here.