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Getting Closer

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Besides being the driving force behind the U.K. dance music labels Simple and Aus, producer Will Saul has released a slamming set of progressive house 12"s under his own name. Most of his 12" work is dark, sleek, Deep Dish-esque, with a bit of Mathew Jonson-y techno as well, but this Saul project called Close is often serene, mostly sumptuous, and sometimes even song-like, with various vocalists helping to make this something akin to a post-dubstep Portishead. The opening "I Died 1000 Times" finds Charlene Soraia offering sour times over Saul's shag carpet of synth, while Joe Dukie delivers some lost highway R&B on "My Way," a broken-hearted number that's one part Massive Attack, one part Moby. Soraia's back for the sultry key cut "Beam Me Up," which sounds just like the succulent and soft stuff those blimps in Blade Runner broadcast, then futuristic reggae regular Tikiman takes the album to the off-world tropics during "Born in a Rolling Barrel," a number that is as interesting and amusing as its name. Linking these vocal tracks are the producer's instrumental bits, like the misty evening called "Oscar" or the funky Orbital-meets-Burial cut dubbed "Cubizm," but they seem like sketches compared to the more standard songs, and suddenly, Getting Closer comes off as an undecided jumble of background and foreground music. Nice, but not necessary, this one falls somewhere between a promising debut and glossy, pretty wallpaper.

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