Sometimes, all your favourite people are in town at the same time, and other times, they’re all in another place on the other side of the planet and it makes you really sad. Right now, that place is America, where the best and brightest of Australia’s electronic producers, vocalists and dance mavens are taking up residence or stopping through on tour as the EDM renaissance sweeps the nation. Far from generic banger-machines, the sparkly synth darlings of the mid-to-late-2000s have become certified club fixtures and in-demand musicians. It’s no wonder Bag Raiders are sticking around in L.A. to create their new album, that Flight Facilities and Flume are both rolling through Miami and Anna Lunoe is now one of the most in-demand DJs in the land; these guys are not generic wub-wub processors, but rather producers with real heart who are taking to new audiences with zeal. Among them is the divine Ms Jess Higgs, on tour as the voice of ‘Foreign Language’ but a genuinely impressive performer in her own right. This year she moved from Sydney to London to begin her assault on the airwaves in earnest, taking on a new name (George Maple) in the process. The results are nothing if not genuinely surprising. Turns out she’s got a wicked downtempo side to her too, but it’s completely different to that of the aviators who initially made her famous.
Full disclaimer; I know Jess personally and I think she’s wonderful. Now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about ‘Uphill’, a track which premiered a few months ago and features the production talent of Moses MacRae, another Northern Beaches boy and a multi-talented percussionist and beatmaker who used to play in Jonti‘s original band, D(j)animals. It’s a seductive, slithering, snaky sort of thing that you can’t quite grab hold of even when you figure out where the locus of the light bossa nova clave groove happens to be. It also eschews the traditional idea of how a blue-eyed soul/electronic piece of music is supposed to play out by having a semi-circular structure with no discernible beginning or end. ‘Uphill’, rather, is an exposition of an idea, one that receives full breathing space in the drop-dead gorgeous overtones and undertones of Higgs’ voice. You really do trip the light fantastic when listening to this melody; even when there aren’t any harmonies, it’s like you can hear them reverberating about anyway. There’s literally no difference in quality between the lower and higher tones of Higgs’ register, and she plays them out to full effect in the main ‘B’ section of this tune.
Mostly, what impresses me about ‘Uphill’ is the fact that Higgs is over in London working with some of the biggest names in the garage/deep house renaissance (including Bondax and Flume last year) and yet manages to pump out material that is not only entirely original, but tips it’s head towards jazz and folk as much as it does towards bleeps and bloops. With a lot of the music coming out of there, the vocal is used as a guide by which to drive the huge bass lines and beats forward. Instead, the focus of George Maple is all on her and that stunner of a voice, and the way the accompaniment seems to shrink in to the background as soon as she enters the booth really shows that. It’s quiet and unassuming, but it says an awful lot with very little quite expressively.
Watch out for this one. She’s got 2013 all sewn up.
George Maple – ‘Uphill’