When a scene blows up, as lofi house has over the past year or so, the glut of bandwagon producers crowding the internet can make it hard to keep track of the original talent that made the sound exciting in the first place. That’s why we still rely on labels for quality curation, and London’s new Of Paradise imprint seems like it has its grip tight on the quality control.
Their second release comes from relative newcomer Stratton in the form of four aquatic house cuts. There’s no doubting the lofi heritage here, each track replete with wistful melodies and fuzzy kicks, but there’s a refined structure and an attention to pacing in these tunes that belies the tape hiss. AM Transmission opens with radio buzz and synth tones applied in delicate hues. A seething chord sequence dominates the track’s second half, packing an unexpected emotional charge.
Stratton scores again with title track Smelling Salts, where a thudding kick ploughs forward under sonar echoes of melody. There’s a relentless propulsion here destined for peak-time dancefloors, and the foghorn that rides over the second drop is a dramatic touch, like a ship calling out to a distant neighbour. The B-side cuts are nimble excursions into different moods, with Scrabble Dub bouncing along over a muted piano line and Always On contrasting its mangled rhythm with the gentle sway of galactic synthwork. Neither quite tops the first two heavy hitters, but Smelling Salts is a very strong look for Stratton nonetheless.