Maison Fauna: Field Guide Volume I

★★★  [Maison Fauna; Nov. 13]  

A tinge of sadness seeps through Maison Fauna’s excellent new compilation, Field Guide Volume I. Eight months ago, the upstart record label and party crew was set to put Durham’s fledgling club scene on the map. Mere days after a major profile in this very paper, the onset of COVID-19 halted its plans. Instead of throwing in the towel, though, Maison Fauna redoubled its efforts to grow its roster of rising local talent. 

The superbly curated collection is a reflection of Maison Fauna’s ability to adapt.

Field Guide Volume I is front-loaded with bangers, beginning with the dark and booming bass of Blursome, a North Carolina-raised producer and vocalist. From there, we seamlessly segue into “Tell Me,” a sumptuous house anthem from Durham producer Treee City. Anchored by a soulful vocal sample that plaintively repeats the song’s titular request, it’s got a simple yet effective bassline that delicately scales up and down its brief, blissful runtime.

Field Guide rounds out this strong opening with the delightfully titled “Ambien Roller Rink,” an unapologetic slice of rave revivalism from Willem Wolfe that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Zomby’s “Where Were You in ’92” or Scuba’s “NE1BUTU.” From there, the tracklist settles into a nice combination of deep house grooves, synth-driven disco jams, and shuffling 2-step rhythms reminiscent of peak UK garage.

What sets Field Guide Volume I apart from other label compilations is how successfully it promotes its catalog without sacrificing its dancefloor readiness—not a small feat considering that the compilation contains a whopping 19 tracks. 

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that the label’s four cofounders are veteran DJs, party promoters, and former club kids. Maison Fauna’s own Sarah Damsky, who deejays as Kir, contributes her own track, “Fine by Me,” to the proceedings, a charmingly quick run-through of UK bass music at its leanest and cleanest (are we noticing a developing theme here?). 

Other highlights include Durham producer 2Dwave’s “Flood Cove,” an instantly catchy four-to-the-floor jammer which laces together percussive ricochets, verdantly lush field recordings, and a gliding analog bassline that echoes IDM pioneers Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.

 Altogether, Field Guide Volume I confidently sets a new sonic standard for the Triangle’s growing dance scene. Here’s to hoping that Volume II will be celebrating a new era of club music throughout the Triangle.

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