Eight months into pandemic-adjusted reality and the netherworld of dance music has reached a critical point. Disco lights are gathering dust. All new techno releases have surely been completed with the present situation in mind: a home-listening scenario which favors melody over repetition, intricacy over seismic subs. On their latest EP, Overmono respond to the new normal by amping up their latent melancholy and luxuriating in a rather British strain of pastoral electronica.
Brothers Ed and Tom Russell, also known as Tessela and Truss, have grafted their way into the UK dance A-list with a rave-indebted sound that has one foot in Room 1 (pumping, ecstatic) and the other in Room 2 (disjointed, dicey). Older by 10 years, Tom brings the blood and guts, with a back catalogue of industrial-edged material as Truss, MPIA3 and one half of bug-eyed techno trolls Blacknecks. Kid brother Tessela is the drum machine, able to slice an Amen break 50 ways.
You’d think a hybrid of these impulses would be tough as a bouncer’s boot, but their releases as Overmono, mainly for the rave-rooted XL Recordings, are vivid and accessible, keeping ruffneck drums in check with smiley-face signifiers and notes of ’90s euphoria. Everything U Need goes brighter still, highlighting their way with a melody—a skill they may have honed through years of classical instruction at the behest of their orchestra-conductor father. So where Overmono’s earlier records hopped between contradictory moods and sketches, these four tracks unfurl as a continuous suite, more like the first side of an album than a club-targeted EP. Their sharp edges have been sanded down, their shiny bits polished up. It’s bijou enough to bring to mind a record like Boards of Canada’s In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country. Take the soft chimes that interrupt “Clipper (Another 5 Years)”—just the sort of saucer-eyed whimsy you’d associate with the classic Warp duo, along with the faux-mysterious snippets of speech.
Similarly, the title track is a bedroom anthem built on itchy minimal drums, a smear of waterlogged pads and a distinctive detuned synth lead: three ingredients that together reboot the kind of tear-stained techno that James Holden and Luke Abbott were perfecting in the late ’00s. With its yin-and-yang combo of creepy-crawly percussion and toy-box melodies, “Caravan” is a dead ringer for early Nathan Fake too, which points us towards an older lineage, a pastoral slant on techno that you can trace back to Aphex Twin—though in his hands, more like folk-horror than a caravan holiday. It’s a sound we haven’t heard much of lately; the mid-’00s revival is gathering pace.
The outer edges of the EP point to another ouroboros of influence, as the opening revs of “Aero” mimic Skee Mask’s “Dial 274” before accelerating into the wide-open sky, leaving trancey chemtrails in their path. “Verbosa” completes the record with a further nod to the cloistered breaks of Compro, as a rack of weary-sounding drum machines chatter under warm drones. Skee Mask is behind some of the only essential records of the breaks revival that Tessela and Overmono helped foment, and their shared genealogy can be traced back to the haunted terrain of Burial and, beyond that, Aphex Twin again. In these blue remembered hills are emotions that run deeper than nostalgia: this is where British ravers buried our collective joy and catharsis, allegedly in some forgotten field off the M4. It’s a powerful collective memory which expands to include each new generation of those who weren’t there.
Unlike the records it most resembles, Everything U Need is fundamentally straightforward—no strange time signatures here, no bait-and-switch drops, no glitchy stunts. In one sense, that feels like a cop-out given current conditions of prolonged boredom and insular listening. But if we’re doomed to stay in our corona-bubbles for a whole winter, any record that revives the MDMA-zing after-party techno-glow of the mid-’00s might as well be labelled “functional.” No one can stop us staying up to watch the sunrise, anyway.
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