NaTuReSs_HaL0: The Vertex
Violin doesn’t have much prestige in club music. The string-heavy chillout lounge and electronic compilations one commonly hears as restaurant muzak have made the instrument a questionable inclusion in modern dance, the sort of beat music often left to Lindsey Stirling and the Burning Man end of electronic festivals.
But recently, a handful of adventurous artists, like recent Stones Throw signee Sudan Archives and Durham’s own VSPRTN, have worked to give the instrument a fair shake among tastemakers. On NaTuReSs_Hal0: The Vortex, VSPRTN has teamed up with Reginald Patterson, a local violinist and Ph.D. graduate from Duke, for an intriguing selection of lush, string-heavy house cuts.
In interviews, Patterson has cited eclectic influences like the French violinist Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the so-called “Black Mozart,” and his sense of curiosity and historicism shines in his evocative playing style. That said, this experimental combo of old and new styles has and will always be an impossibly tricky thing to pull off without a few steps into cheese. When it works, it works. On the triumphant “Noman,” the looping production and violin locks into a sweet, seamless 4/4 club pocket, neither element too fussy for the other. The same is true for “Mutha Eartha,” a contemplative number that smashes together pointed spoken word, slow violin, and electronic horns.
VSPRTN has a keen ear for turning unexpected samples into undeniable floor-fillers, and the track is a fine showcase of the deejay’s talents. While enjoyable, other, less cohesive numbers like “Move Along” scan as an attempt to graft house music on an abrasive violin stem. Even if only some of NaTuReSs_Hal0: The Vortex feels fully dancefloor-ready, the whole project carries enough variety and undeniable charm to thrive. David Ford Smith