If Canadian producer Jex Opolis really has had “a long and painful musical history”, as his Discogs profile claims, you’d never guess it from listening to his music. Across a series of EPs on his own Good Timin’ label Jex has established a defiantly joyous sound that straddles house and modern funk. Each release has seen an expansion of his sound, his music becoming richer, catchier and smoother. For his debut album it seems he’s finished with improving step by step. Ravines is a giant leap forward.
The tracks on Ravines bear all the loveable traits of Jex’s back catalogue. The busy, colourful melodies never tread on the wrong side of good taste. A sound that draws deep from classic funk and disco but doesn’t sound dated. A buoyancy and optimism that we all need sometimes. But while earlier productions were extended jams, not a track here is over 5 minutes. The shorter track times suit Jex perfectly, particularly when accompanied by tighter songwriting and an abundance of fresh ideas. It feels like he’s trying to compress everything he knows into a pop-friendly format.
He doesn’t put a foot wrong across the whole 40-minute stretch. Opener Wild Conceits sets the scene perfectly. A curiously innocent melody, like something played on a child’s toy, floats high above a robust bass bounce and ultra-crisp percussion. The title track introduces big, dramatic chords, whose ascent is trailed by playful synthesised vocals. First Stomp is another strutting highlight, the most obvious gesture to the dancefloor, with an anthemic wordless chant and warm, syrupy riffs.
The immediate appeal of Jex’s inviting melodies is matched by an intricate detail to each production, rewarding repeated spins. A couple of tracks also offer variations to the mood. Wake Up deals in whispered vocals and big bass stabs, its beetling acid line adding a touch of menace (considering the warmth of the arrangements that menace is relative, like coming across a red light district in toytown). Après-MIDI is a blissful electronic waltz, somehow both grand and cosy, offering respite after the soaring melodies of our pick of the litter, Mt. Belzoni. By focusing on poppier song structures, Jex has crystallised all the best things about his sound. It’s gratifying to hear that no matter the format, nothing can dampen his exuberance.