By Greg Salter
Sepalcure is the space where Travis Morrison and Praveen Sharma overlap. Morrison has been working as Machinedrum for around a decade now, and achieved something of a breakthrough with his Room(s) album from earlier this year, which combined elements of footwork, juke and dubstep in a series of dense, poppy tracks – it sounded like a warmer, more welcoming companion to Ramadanman/Pearson Sound’s recent work. Meanwhile, as Braille, Sharma has been a fixture of the house revival over the last 12 to 18 months. It’s fitting, then, that the duo have found a home on Paul Rose’s Hotflush recordings – a label that has been unconcerned with genre boundaries since its inception.
Sepalcure, their full-length, self-titled debut album, follows a series of EPs – 2010’s Love Pressure, Fleur from earlier this year, and this summer’s Love Pressure Remixed. If these releases – particularly Love Pressure and Fleur – sounded remarkably focused, well-paced and self-contained as short statements, then Sepalcure picks up on the elements that have defined their sound so far and grows fearlessly outwards. Recorded in just two weeks, the tracks here sound more fluid, expansive and spontaneous than ever before.
It’s to Morrison and Sharma’s credit, not to mention their skill as musicians, that Sepalcure never feels like a spot-the-genre exercise – a myriad of elements are moulded seamlessly together and re-emerge over the course of the LP. So there’s the rattling beats and pitch-shifted vocals that recall Burial and garage on opener ‘Me’ – you can hear these same elements rising out of ‘Breezin’, a second half epic otherwise built from bits of footwork, house and even minimal. ‘Pencil Pimp’, the lead single, is brilliantly placed as the second track on the album – all 4/4 forward momentum and, with its driving house beat tempered by samples and stuttering beats, never quite going where you expect it to.
It is an album of left turns – ‘The One’, which feels like a slightly warped house workout, falls into ‘See Me Feel Me’ and its warm, fractured R&B piano chords and tender robotic vocals. Meanwhile, on something like ‘Hold On’ you can almost hear the two worlds of Sepalcure combining – there’s the house diva vocals that Sharma so admires, but they sound a little brittle and isolated against a musical backdrop that sounds as indebted to IDM as it does the dancefloor. There’s one more curveball before the end too – last track ‘Outside’ foregoes beats all together for an ambient collage that perfectly brings everything to a close.
Sepalcure is an immersive listen, then, and best done all the way through – this is partly as a result of the sheer inventiveness of the music here, the way Sharma and Morrison bring in elements from far-flung genres, but it’s also down to the warm, emotive atmosphere they manage to create. Early on in their career, the duo were saddled with the label ‘lovestep’, partly because their music marked them out as separate to the hyper-masculine strain of dubstep that had emerged in the US. Sepalcure is much more subtle and fluid than that label though – Sharma and Morrison have made a record that is as unpredictable, addictive and sonically-exciting as those made by Burial and Mount Kimbie in recent years.