Desert: “Sense Likes” EP (CSCN/Cascine)

An invitation to alterity

Desert, Barcelona-based producers Cristina Checa and Eloi Caballé, debuts on CSCN, a sub-label from Brooklyn Cascine imprint, with a three-track EP, including two originals sung in Catalan, and a remix by Baltra.

The duo’s third studio release has a penetrating quality to dilute forms. It’s timeless by bridging past and present, and pro-active with melancholy and romanticism. Work where the distinctive blurs its outlines, loving the imprecise, the in-betweens for a melting shape of meanings. It’s inner reality on virtual exposure. It blends thoroughly by, first on linguistics. The title is mindful compound from artists’ mother speaking tongue word -‘Sense’- stuck to the social network form for agreeing and about to play on the read (listened) context language of the delivery. A tricky key to be in the game of understanding without getting any of the lyrics’ lines. Secondly, in music terms, it’s dreamy pop-fueled in synth wave scheme transformed with the most updated studio proficiency.

It’s pop, 21st-century pop to be precise, based on ethereal and airy vocals by Cristina, enriched by experimental textures and studio skills delivered by nowadays aesthetics of electronic music. Title track’s first verse says ‘I should say I’m getting not enough by opening the eyes.” It’s facing another kind of reality, a perceptive more than a seen or heard one. An idea back by another line like ‘Come with me, to your different world.’ Oneness dialogues with otherness: an invitation to alterity. Asking for ‘One like for me,’ the song’s refrain, is wished correspondence to the proposal of being the other, as intense as perceiving the same way the other feels and reveals. Assume listening as a love song of thoughts, a wordless form lost in the way of explanation: ‘As much looking at you as much you don’t see me.’ ‘Sense Likes,’ in Catalan, means ‘Without Likes’ in English. By the way, ‘Sense likes’ read in English is an open imperative to reach fulfillment abroad. It has sense. Homographic words transformed in the crossing.

The other original, ‘Encara,’ (translated as ‘Still’ better than ‘Yet’) comes from way back in time. It relates after “Envalira” EP release, a new composition first heard on UO Sound, an invitation addressed to Desert to perform at the Urban Outfitters store in Barcelona. Over Cristina’s singing, ‘Don’t ask me if (I or it) still…’ with a felt and aspirated resolution in ‘You’ve come at the end, in my mind, slowly,’ the song grows as a downtempo track, developing a flourished arpeggios for the conclusion.

The release rounds up with title track remix by New York producer Baltra, introduced by a lovely hint of an old house to turn immediately into updated thumps of deeper house pattern. It goes inserting strategic Cristina’s vocal samples (‘I should say I’m getting not enough…’) and keeping the main synth line until an acid input breaks into to reinforce the melodic structure to the end over repeating sample of ‘One like for me.’

‘Sense Likes’ doesn’t differ from previous works by the Catalans, but it’s affirmation in their career. They debuted with “Camins/Desert,” back in January 2013 through Barcelona’s Glitter End Record, followed by the “Envalira” EP in Spring 2014 via Buenritmo Records and Minty Fresh. Both releases had remixes by local producers including Marc Piñol and ASTER (JMII and Pettre) in the first case, two electronics artist related to John Talabot’s Hivern Discs, and “Envalira Remixes” EP remade the original tracks by Sau Poler and Pedro Vian through MOM (Modern Obscure Music) in 2015.

The will to experience the other is everywhere. In the promo pictures of the pair, where Eloi’s head lays on Cristina’s holding hands, a subtle portrait of creating new identity made out of both individuals. Another shows a hand extended from his head shadow that penetrates into the straight hair curtain of her. The cover is like a burned Polaroid, by interrupted photo development, and the result is the image of shaping in two dimensions. In between, what drives the phase change? Melting takes the form of a first-order phase transition. Check it out on suggestive “Sense Likes” accompanying clip in 3-D by Shoeg*

It is not surprising that CSCN, a division from New York-based Cascine imprint, focused on developing new artists in experimental pop, have an interest in them. Desert is to engross their affiliates in diversity. Good point.

*Shoeg is the moniker of Carlos Martorell, a musician, producer, and designer from Tortosa, Baix Ebre, Catalonia, Spain. He has released two albums and one EP, respectively “Panorama,” “Tanz,” and “.nfo” between 2014 and 2015 through Barcelona Boira Records, and “Vaseline” LP this year via Californian imprint Memory no. 36. He is also a member of Ensemble Topogràfic, taking care of sound in the artistic joint-venture of dance performance and electronics, with Ana Hierro for the movement.

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