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For their second release of the year, Josiah Hartley’s Phuture Shock label welcome up-and-coming Manchester producer Szajna to the ranks; armed with his debut solo 12” ‘M41’ EP. Already bubbling under the surface of Manchester’s diverse music scene for some time, Szajna has been carving out a name for himself far beyond the city of late - as a producer and DJ with a certain penchant for the broken beat genre. In recent years his productions – largely in the form of unreleased dubs and re-edits - have been making waves on the underground; garnering support from DJ’s across the board, including bruk forefather IG Culture and various members of the Selectors Assemble crew. While last summer saw the Manc resident score a V/A appearance on EVM 128 and James Rudie’s Dance Regular imprint. Picking up from where he left off in 2019, here Szajna steps aboard the Phuture Shock mothership for his maiden voyage flying solo. Titled after the district postcode of Urmston, where the producer was living at the time he wrote the material herein, ‘M41’ EP renders a snapshot of Szajna’s off-kilter production style within three original tracks; merging the funky rhythmic structures of broken beat and 2-step garage, coupled with a cheeky dose of avant-pop melodicism and altogether outlined by the heavy bass lineage of the UK underground to create a somewhat quirky, genre-bending sound. Alongside the trio of originals, the 12” also includes a remix of the title cut by Barcelona’s finest bruk export Karmasound, who returns to the Bristol label hot off the back of his highly praised debut album ‘La Búsqueda’. Opening up the set is ‘M41’, a melodic, percussion-laced romp, that bounces along to a descending bassline and bruk beats with a playful charm; before a kaleidoscopic wave of cosmic synth hooks and quivering SFX come to the fore, flaunting the chirpy kind of synth interplay that’s far more in tune with the Scandi disco stylings of Todd Terje, than the jazzier flair of the classic West London sound, yet works wonders. Nestled on the A2 is the dubwise skank of ‘Crunchy Landing’, in constrast a more stripped-down iteration of UKG for the darkest-lit club corners. Marked with an understated use of delay and space, it allows room for a deep, dubby bassline to furrow its way in between slick organ stab riffs typical of the old skool house’n’garage sound, whilst crisp hi-hats and galloping snares drive the rhythm forward, in a way that recalls the frenetic, snare patterns of UK Funky. Maintaining a slight dub aesthetic, B side opener ‘Spooky’ connects the dots between broken beat, grime and dark garage, in turn revealing a much darker side of Szajna’s sound palette. Built around rugged, syncopated beats, and interjected with ice-cold synth motifs and dysphoric pads, the underside boasts a menacing b-line that channels the legacy of Drum’n’Bass and nods to the early works of UKG innovators like Groove Chronicles and Zed Bias. Finally the EP is brought to a vibrant close with Karmasound’s rework of ‘M41’, who puts a more Latin-flavoured twist on the original; retaining much of the percussive ingredients, whilst spicing things up a notch by adding shimmering boogie synths, jazzy keys and even a catchy vocal refrain of his own, all gliding over a decidedly wonky rhythm, that doffs a cap to L.A’s beat scene.
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