For Chaz Bear and Adrian Mojica, rhythm is a bridge capable of spanning geography, styles, and even generations. Oakland’s Bear, an indie veteran and chillwave pioneer best known as Toro y Moi, has been making music since the mid ’00s; club aesthetics play a crucial role in his music (particularly in the dancefloor-oriented cuts of his alias Les Sins), but he has never been known as a club producer per se. New York’s Mojica, aka AceMo, came along roughly a decade later (in fact, the year of AceMo’s debut release, 2014, was also the year of Les Sins’ last recording until now); his raw, hardware-driven house, techno, and jungle productions throb with an upstart’s determination. Fun, spirited, and spontaneous, their debut EP together plays to their shared strengths.
Where Bear’s music is often woozy and a little bit whimsical, Mojica’s productions typically favor overdriven sonics and hard-charging rhythms. But on these five tracks, they seek a middle path, wrapping quick-stepping drum programming in heady, ruminative tones. The opening track, “C’Mon Les’ Go,” is the deepest of the bunch, punctuating an aquamarine swirl of synths with bare-bones drum machine, mostly just rimshots and hi-hats, and whispered come-ons. But the smoothness of the groove is offset by bursts of boisterous energy, and a layer of sampled hoots and yelps rides roughshod over the top of it all.
That sense of tension defines all the EP’s tracks. At its core, “Can’t Take It Anymore” is a psychedelic party cut that invites dancers to get lost in the play of textures like glassy synth tones and silvery electronic squiggles. Despite the innumerable little details at play, it doesn’t feel busy; it moves with a frictionless glide. But that sleekness is the foil for the artists’ nonstop stream of off-the-cuff vocals, the kind of energy-stoking rhymes a house-party DJ might shout through headphones plugged into the mixer’s mic jack (“Yo, I can’t take it anymore/Can you take me out on the floor”; “Dance, dance, dance, dance/Do the resistance”).
“Holy Cow” slips between moments of barely controlled chaos and effortless cool, bouncing pitch-shifted variations of the titular phrase over a TR-909 groove splashed with staccato organ chords. With a bumptious, ’90s-inspired sense of swing, it marks the record’s most extroverted moment. (“Hello?” is essentially a remix of “Holy Cow,” doubling down on the gonzo elements and throwing extra ad-libbed vocals into the pot.)
That playful spirit is a big part of the EP’s charm. Though the two musicians produced the bulk of the record remotely, they laid down its foundations when Mojica traveled to the Bay Area to DJ one of Bear’s Snap to Grid parties last fall, and all those whoops and hollers bear the unmistakable trace of real, in-person connection, of shared laughs in a shared space. The inaugural record on Mojica’s new Sonic Messengers label, a co-release with Bear’s own Company, the EP is a tribute to connections forged in dance music, as well as to the spontaneity that happens outside the actual club—a celebration of happy accidents and new creative directions. That might be why this bumping EP, split between heads-down energy and hands-up thrills, is tempered in places by a distinctly wistful air. The pandemic has been hell on dance music, and with C’mon Les’Go, it’s clear that Bear and Mojica can’t wait to get back out on the floor.
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