Beset by a tragic warehouse fire and the loss of two of their finest artists, no one would blame the 100% Silk crew for taking some time off. Yet 2017 has seen Amanda Brown’s label on its finest form in years, kicking off with the fine Sensate Silk compilation and continuing with this album from Russian producer åmnfx, aka Vasily Skobeev. Skobeev has previously peddled murky club cuts for the likes of Opal Tapes and Neo Violence, but Moscow Beat sees the producer claiming a new maturity and range across eight distinct tracks.
Skobeev’s Bandcamp page simply describes his sound as ‘piano & acid’, and while the glib line says something about his unfiltered, straightforward approach, it doesn’t quite capture the variety of moods across his debut LP. Working from a limited sound palette, the tracks share a downtrodden quality where drums are blasted with distortion and melodies wreathed in delay.
The tracks on Moscow Beat neatly divide into three different modes. Skobeev sounds at his emotive best when he puts his piano to work, as on melancholy opener Forget, where crystal keys flit over a crushed kick and a warped acid line. He returns to the ivories on downtempo breather In The Café, whose robust bassline anchors the wispy melodies, all cushioned in a bed of ambient fuzz.
When Skobeev targets the dancefloor head on, bringing out the aggression in his distorted sound, he rarely misses the mark. Moscow Beat is a rude house jam, its dry rhythm held in thrall to a swaggering bassline, while Wayback brings a similarly stripped sense of menace with a single descending synth. Best of all is centrepiece We Got It (I’ve Been Saving Up All Day), where a loopy vocal and brisk rave stabs are dominated by a curdled acid line.
It’s only when Skobeev leaves behind his cherished ‘piano & acid’ that his music starts to lose definition. Longer cuts Build A Home and Strictly Dub are perfectly competent pieces of dubby house, but lack the unbridled energy of his other productions and the refinement of similar practitioners of the style. Still, their rolling grooves add a touch of diversity to the album, which shows 100% Silk literally rising from the ashes the best way they know how – with great music destined to bring people together at great parties.