Samaritan – ‘Sketches’ EP
It was around this time last year that I first came across Samaritan‘s debut release, Part of the Jurys Volume 1. The release was a collection of tracks that borrowed from the darker side of UK beat music. It came full of down-pitched RnB vocal samples and drums that seemed to come from having buried a Burial vinyl 6 feet under for a few years, only to later throw it on a record player, the gritty accumulated dirt and mulch serving just as strong inspirational cues as the vinyl itself. Part of the Jurys Vol. 1 had many great tracks and a consistent sound, but at the end of the day it sounded like a solid step in a direction that a lot of beat-based musicians were taking at the time. And the sad truth of the matter is that too many bedroom musicians and beat makers today seem to still be stuck in this sound without pushing the music in any direction forward.
Now a year later Samaritan returns, packaging individual tracks from the past year into a cohesive direction forward. In his own words:
I’m on a bit of a quest for discovery at the moment, trying to develop my ideas into a full piece of work. This is EP is a compilation of sketches/short ideas from the past few months.
While the mood still has a familiar dark and downtempo vibe, the samples and textures now seem much more akin to some of the industrial minimal techno coming out of German record labels like Ostgut Ton. “Beat music” seems to often sit awkwardly between these words of indie and dance, but here we see Samaritan pull from the darker sides of both worlds and the result is the first release in a long time that I’ve felt is so deserving of multiple listens.
One of the most impressive parts of Sketches is Samaritan‘s openness to playing with empty space. Stark minimalism is the key here, and the EP’s closer, “Sum“ (see below), is a perfect example of this. The track rides on a modest yet soulful chord progression of synth stabs, with sparse interludes of fluttering noise and staggered cavernous samples to help create an atmosphere. With only a minute and thirty-eight seconds in runtime, “Sum” is a fitting outro. However, taken in the context of the whole Sketches release, brevity seems to be something that Samaritan takes on with confidence and full force.
This is yet another aspect of of Sketches that makes it stand out amongst the crowd: its short duration—both of individual tracks, and the release as a whole. Where most dance music has no shame in slow builds and tracks well over 6 minutes, only 2 of the 8 tracks on Sketches clock in over 3 minutes. These tracks, while self-described as “sketches” and “short ideas,” are full fledged compositions that establish a sonic theme, give it just enough time to sink in, and move on without giving the listener any time to get bored. Safe to say this only works when the material itself is so good. If this is any indication of where Samaritan is headed in the future, we’ve got a lot to look forward to… and until then, we have Sketches.