Diego Herrera has been putting out records across a range of aliases since 2011, but it was a one-two punch of releases in 2015 that announced the arrival of a serious talent. The first was Renee Running, a house cut Herrera cooked up under the Dude Energy moniker that threw a pinwheeling Eastern melody over a scything rhythm to genuinely unique effect. His other winner was quite different – a near-beatless album for London label Melody As Truth. ‘Talk From Home’ was a serene series of meditations built from intimate guitar melodies and warm, patient synthwork. As the year came to an end, Herrera seemed to be that rare producer who could produce equally inspiring work in different styles.
This versatility hinted at a restless creative mind, and Herrera has continued to twist his sound into new shapes with each release. Fittingly, his new album does not repeat past successes. It finds new ground in subtle variations and a marked shift of mood. That’s not to say ‘What You Get For Being Young’ is a total stylistic overhaul. The long, aching synth notes are still present, as are the patient structures, where change is slow and subtle. Nothing happens abruptly in a Suzanne Kraft track. But where ‘Talk From Home’ traded in gauzy optimism, there’s an edginess here, and often a melancholy.
The yearning, beatless melodies of Body Heat provide a soothing and familiar opening to the album, but from the first doubled-up kick drum of second cut Bank, something seems to shift. There are still plucked guitar notes and glistening synth swells, but the emotional direction seems guarded, strangely neutral. This impression continues into One Amongst Others, whose feather-soft melodies hang from a twitchy, unsettled drumtrack.
Fans of Herrera’s work might be surprised at the lack of hazy, bittersweet nostalgia, but as the album progresses it seems he’s getting at something more complex. The flickering notes of Fragile, serving as both rhythm and melody, are beautiful without imposing any specific emotion on the listener. The same could be said for the bright, curious keys on Scripted Space, caressed by subtle guitar and percussion.
Best of all are the bass sweeps of Ze, locked in a duet with chords that trail reverb, all arranged around yawning pockets of negative space. When you finally reach abstracted closer Further, where percussion spasms irregularly across a widescreen ambient hum, its emotional inscrutability no longer seems surprising. Herrera is an adventurer through sound, and here he’s exploring territory that is not always easy or comforting. Here is another intriguing angle from which to view the Suzanne Kraft prism.